Before and Beyond Al-Shabaab: National Islamic Councils, Contentious Politics and the Rise of Jihadism in East Africa
Following the 2010 Kampala bombings and the high-profile attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, research on violent extremism in East Africa has focused on Al-Shabaab’s evolution into a persistent transnational security threat. However, the regional advent of Jihadism(s) predates the onset of Somalia’s present civil war. Examining broader historical patterns of politico-religious mobilisation, the report argues that the genesis and expansion of militant Islamist networks in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique can be attributed, among other things, to the failure of largely non-Muslim post-colonial ruling elites to effectively regulate the Islamic sphere. Specifically, it shows how the disintegration of Muslim contestation movements created a political environment conducive to collective radicalisation. By shedding light on this development, the report provides evidence that while the timing and escalatory dynamics of Jihadist violence and radicalisation have depended on specific domestic context conditions, the overarching trajectories of contentious Muslim politics that have unfolded in East Africa’s religiously heterogeneous societies share crucial similarities.
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