Violent Non-State Actors in Africa: Terrorists, Rebels and Warlords

In This Review

Violent Non-State Actors in Africa: Terrorists, Rebels and Warlords
Edited by Caroline Varin and Dauda Abubakar
Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
340 pp.
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The best chapters in this volume on violent nonstate actors across Africa describe contemporary groups that remain understudied and poorly documented: for example, the various militias fighting in the Central African Republic, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Libya, and the armed factions that briefly formed a jihadist statelet in northern Mali in 2012. One depressing message the book delivers is that a good deal of continuity exists when it comes to the emergence of these kinds of violent groups. Decade after decade, extremists continue to exploit the continent’s dire poverty and underperforming, illegitimate regimes. The names and the rhetoric change, but the essential qualities stay the same. In her succinct and useful introduction to the book, Varin suggests, however, that one significant change has occurred: newer groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al Shabab in Somalia, commit even more senseless, gratuitous violence than earlier groups, which were often brutal but were reined in to an extent by a combination of stronger chains of command, clearer ideologies, and more significant foreign support.