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Rome Reports

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Why some young people in Africa are joining extremist groups

Nigerian refugees in Cameroon...

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and Kenya...

Refugees in Mali cross the desert and the sea in an attempt to reach Europe...

They flee from situations like that of this Ethiopian women.

-“There were about 20 of them. They gathered around my house and trashed all my crops. I have nightmares of my house from before it was burned, and we had to flee to another area. They kept getting closer, burning all the harvested crops and straw, and continued setting fire to everything. They burned everything I had.”

This story has been repeating itself for decades. But according to Mario Giro, there are important differences that show that something has changed in parts of Africa. Ethnic conflicts, for instance, are changing.

Former Italian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
“It's absurd to talk about ethnic groups on a continent where ethnic groups are disappearing. Why? Because of the social phenomena set in motion by globalization: rural exodus, a generational break between adults and young adults, etc. New generations are growing outside of their ethnic groups.”

Mario Giro was Italy's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He is concerned about the rise of warlords in parts of Africa in recent years.

They're mercenaries willing to take on a variety of roles, including that of Jihadists. Or vice versa. Some Jihadists leave that role for a time to dedicate themselves to other activities.

Former Italian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
“The same Jihadists from the Sahel, they'll be Jihadists for a week or a month, then the following month they'll go into arms trafficking or drug trafficking. Then the month after that, they'll traffic humans and bring us migrants from Libya. Then they turn into bandits and then go back to being Jihadists. So what to us seems like a single thing is actually a combination of different things. And this happens with Jihadists in the Sahel and with Boko Haram in northern Mozambique.”

A lack of belonging to a group and a need for money pushes many young people to join warlords.

Former Italian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Some religious sisters, friends of ours, said that among the Jihadists who had kidnapped them in Mozambique were kids from their parish. So contemporary Jihadism can take root anywhere. It doesn't matter if there aren't any Muslims.”

In any case, the internal changes taking place in some African countries are unlikely to change the outcome, which is more violence and more refugees.

Javier Romero