Modes of radicalisation by violent extremist or terrorist groups in Africa

Table of Contents:

Radicalisation towards violent extremism and terrorism is now a growing source of concern in local communities across Africa. This is in addition to the international attention Africa is receiving as a new volatile site for the terrorist activity. Social, economic, political, religious, and psychological factors in each community can increase an individual’s vulnerability to radicalisation, which can either manifest as self-radicalisation or structured radicalisation. Although the progress of an individual down this path is often exceedingly difficult to predict or detect in a community, evidence abounds on how terrorist ideologues influence individuals in moving down the path of radicalisation by exploiting diverse methods. The different methods used are first summarised in Table 8.1 and elaborated upon subsequently.


This is one of the subtle methods ot radicalisation adopted by violent extremist or terrorist groups in Africa, as elsewhere in the world. Indoctrination is understood here as the process of inculcating ideas, values, attitudes, or beliefs on an individual or group with the intent of making

Table 8.1 Some Radicalisation Methods used by Violent Extremist Croups in Africa










Religious Centres

Imams, Indoctrinators

Distorted sermons or teachings, Religious Texts, Exercise books


Camps or Training Facilities


Visual displays, Tapes, Magazines, Spiritual books, etc.



Camps, Training Facilities



Drugs, Black Magic, Charms, Spiritual books






Publications, Videos, YouTube, Twitter (social media)

Source: Onuoha, F.C. (2016), "Boko Haram's Recruitment and Radicalisation Methods in Nigeria: An Expose", South East journal of Political Science, 2(1), 181 -203.

them develop a blind and complete agreement with those beliefs (Snook, 1972). It is aimed at influencing people to uncritically embrace newfound ideas, values, or beliefs and to back them up with anything but opinion. The process of indoctrination is often conducted in religious centres (mosques) or training camps of terrorist groups. In relation to religious centres, extremist clerics engage in distorted teachings to influence their audience. In their training facilities such as those of A1 Shabaab s military-style Mtwara and Tanga camps, Boko Haram’s Camp Zero and ’Camp Abuja’ in Sambisa forest, and Sina Province’s Abu Hajr al-Masri Camp, indoctrinators rely on manipulative texts to teach recruits to accept a set of beliefs or values without questioning them.


This is another method used by extremists and terrorists in their radicalisation drive. Brainwashing refers to the systematic, and often violent, but not always conscious, distortion or conditioning of the mind of another person for selfish or other harmful purposes using operant conditioning (Wilson, 2014). In this method, recruits are brought to training camps, where experienced ideologues then work with them one-on-one to instil a virulent fanaticism and bloodlust toward those described as infidels and apostates. Using videos, sermons and other emotive materials, experienced ideologues then skilfully evoke visions of martyrdom to radicalise recruits into volunteering tor an extreme act of violence such as suicide bombing. Pain, stress, or violent intimidation could be applied mostly on incompliant recruits. In the case of Al- Shabaab, for example, Hassan (2009) reported that:

They brainwash our young boys daily to the extent that they made them a human bomb. They erroneously inform these young men that blowing themselves up for the sake of Islam (which is not true) is one of the surest ways to enter paradise____Al-Shabaab brainwashed our beautiful and innocent young girls to marry an older men from either Afghanistan or Arab countries in order to support the “jihad”, as reported repeatedly. In numerous occasions when these courageous young girls refused to marry these ugly and old men, they were raped to terrorize other girls ( july/11510/al_shabab_s_reign_ofj.terror.aspx)

The essence of applying intimidation or pains is to break or reduce the recruit's adaptive energy or vitality level. Those who are brave enough to refuse such intimidation and other dehumanising treatment such as rape or torture are often subjected to painful death before colleagues to break the resolve of other onlookers.

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