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Political nomadism and the Jihadist ‘Safe Haven’ in northern Mali: an entry point through Tuareg relational political dynamics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 February 2024

Adib Bencherif*
Affiliation:
École de Politique Appliquée, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada J1K 2R1

Abstract

Jihadist groups have found a ‘safe haven’ in northern Mali. They have managed this by operating strategically to establish themselves and to develop relationships with local communities, but characteristics of the environment have also facilitated their development and survival. In northern Mali, the political landscape is fragmented, and replete with competition between the central authority and various groups of local elites, who are themselves divided. I conceptualise this fluid environment as a context that incentivises ‘political nomadism’. Using the Tuareg communities as an entry point, I explore the complex dynamics between local and national political actors and jihadist groups in northern Mali. I argue that the jihadist ‘safe haven’ in northern Mali is highly relational and has been facilitated by the form of political nomadism practiced in the region since the 1990s. The article is based on eight months of fieldwork conducted between 2016 and 2017 in Mali and Niger.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

*

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments. He also wants to thank Dr. Leonardo Villalón and other colleagues from the Sahel Research Group for stimulating discussions during his postdoctoral stay at the University of Florida between 2019 and 2021, which helped polish this paper. The author would like to thank Mónica Villalón, Khalid El Saafien and Audrey Tremblay for copy-editing the different versions of this article. He thanks the Chaire d'études maghrébines and Dr. Francesco Cavatorta from the Université Laval for funding this research in the early stages of this article. He also thanks Dr. Cédric Jourde, Dr. Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim and Dr. Marie-Joelle Zahar for regularly sharing their thoughts with him on this issue.

References

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