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Understanding Inter-Communal Conflict in the Sahel – Professor Hussein Solomon


Understanding Inter-Communal Conflict in the Sahel

by Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 6 (April 2019)

By the time government forces reached Ogossagou in central Mali, on the 23rd March 2019 the charred remains of women and children in their still-smouldering homes was all that remained of a once-vibrant Fulani village. 153 people were brutally killed that day as members of the Dogon ethnic group – a hunting and farming community – attacked the village in their long-simmering dispute with the Fulani over land use.

All across the Sahel the situation mirrors that of central Mali with inter-communal violence escalating. On the 11th February 2019, UngwarBardi, an Adara settlement was attacked by Fulani in which 11 people were killed in Kaduna State in Nigeria. Whilst media attention is often focused on Nigeria’s restive north-east with a Boko Haram insurgency going on for years, it is often forgotten that since January 2018 these inter-communal conflicts have killed six times more Nigerians than that of the militant Islamists.

Whilst these conflicts have existed for decades and fundamentally involve disputes over land between herders like the Fulani and Hausa and farmers like the Tiv and Tarok, these conflicts have grown more violent in recent years and has spread over wider parts of the Sahel. Several reasons account for this intensification in conflict dynamics. First, the Sahel is one of the most environmentally degraded regions in the world with climate change contributing to temperature increase 1.5 times higher than the global average. With this comes desertification and increased competition for arable land. The centrality of arable land is also highlighted by the fact that more than 33 million people in the region are defined as food insecure. Add to this a regional population growth of 2.8 percent per annum and the conflict dynamics escalate further.

Second, there is the question of weapon flows emanating from Libya and other countries into the Sahel which increases the lethality of inter-communal conflict. The need to secure borders to prevent this illicit flow of arms is imperative. Third, the inability of governments in the region to secure the peace together with the breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms have compelled local communities to form tribal militias which have further reinforced cleavages along ethnic and religious lines. In some cases, governments have exacerbated inter-communal conflict with the enactment of legislation which bans the open grazing of cattle. In 2018, Benue State in Nigeria passed such a ban in an ill-advised attempt to prevent conflict. This worsened the situation since herders viewed the ban as a direct attack on their way of life and lost faith in the government’s ability to serve as an honest broker.

Fourth, there is the question of individual governments attempting to respond to the problem on a national level without understanding the full implications of the regional crises they are confronted with. Consider the Fulani. They constitute the world’s largest semi-nomadic group and are found across West and Central Africa – from Senegal to the Central African Republic. Policy, therefore, needs to be informed by both regional dynamics and local particularities and cooperation amongst states need to be paramount.

Governments in the Sahel need to be more creative and be less reliant on brute force in responding to this conflict. Some countries are demonstrating this creativity. In the case of Senegal, tensions between farmers and herders are muted on account of the enforcement of a legal regime which insists on cattle being registered and the designation of alternative areas for grazing land following government consultation with both herders and farmers. In Dori, in north-eastern Burkina Faso, the local government has provided financial support to farmers, introduced beekeeping and assisted with the reforestation of areas. More holistic solutions such as this are needed if one wishes to see a de-escalation of inter-communal violence in the Sahel.

Algeria: Between Democracy and Jihad – Professor Hussein Solomon


Algeria: Between Democracy and Jihad

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 5 (March 2019)

Algeria’s 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has certainly lived a charmed life. He has been in politics since the dawn of his country’s independence and has suffered setbacks from which he has recovered. Serving as Algeria’s president for 20 years, he watched whilst the Arab Spring unfolded in the region. Tunisia’s Zinedine El Abidine was forced into exile in 2011. Libya’s strongman, Muammar Gaddafi was killed by his people and Egypt’s latter-day pharaoh, Mubarak, was overthrown. Not seeking to emulate their fate Bouteflika moved quickly to placate a restive population by providing subsidies, increased government jobs and public sector pay increases. All this was financed by oil revenues. For a while, it seemed the population was placated and it was business as usual for Bouteflika and the `pouvoir’ (power) behind him representing members of the military, secret services and businessmen.

However, recent events suggest that a combination of external and internal factors are finally catching up with Bouteflika and his cabal. In Sudan, the tripling of the price of bread sparked nation-wide protests which resulted in Sudan’s long-running president to step down from the ruling party. Similar economic issues has also sparked tens of thousands of Algerians to take to the streets, the largest protests the country has seen since the Arab Spring uprising eight years ago.

Algeria has always been heavily dependent on its oil and gas reserves, but this has not translated into economic benefits for the ordinary citizens. Indeed, the distribution of this largesse has always been opaque, resulting in Algeria being perceived as one of the ten most corrupt countries on the planet. To complicate matters, oil revenues have fallen by 50 percent and there has been a marked decrease in public services including health, education and housing. Whilst fiscal and trade deficits spiralled upwards, international reserves plummeted and the depreciation of the currency followed. This served to further impoverish ordinary Algerians whilst more than 270,000 educated Algerians sought greener pastures elsewhere with negative consequences for the economy. Moreover, 50 percent of the population is under the age of 30 and youth unemployment is over 20 percent. Frustrated and impoverished youth were the foot soldiers of the Arab Spring and so they have proved again in Algeria as they took to the streets.

In a desperate bid to postpone the inevitable, Bouteflika did attempt to assuage popular anger by promising to serve only one year should he be re-elected for an unprecedented fifth term in the poll to take place on the 18th April. He further proposed to call for early elections and not stand for a sixth term. Popular anger was unabated and the continuing protests compelled him to withdraw from seeking a further presidential term and postponing the April poll for fresh candidates to contest the elections. Whilst this does hold the promise of a new and democratic Algeria, there are dangers too. The question is whether the pouvoir will allow the democratic space to open up – knowing full well that a democratic Algeria cannot allow their aggrandisement of wealth at the expense of the nation to continue or do they dig in their heels and risk civil war?

There is another aspect to this and this relates to the jihadist threat. Militant Islamists have been a problem for this blighted country since the 1990s. It is now clear that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seeks to exploit the chaos in the country to advance its own agenda in the same manner it did in Libya following Gaddafi’s ouster. On the 10th March, Abu Ubaydah Yusu al-Anabi, a senior AQIM commander, and Algerian national referred to Bouteflika and the Algerian government as corrupt and illegitimate and spoke of the need to replace it with an Islamic government. He also spoke approvingly of the protests and of the socio-economic plight of Algerians at the hands of Bouteflika’s government. This was clearly an attempt on the part of AQIM to exploit the existing challenges in Algeria to advance its Islamist agenda.

As Algerians celebrate the demise of the Bouteflika era, there is a desperate need not to embrace the message of the jihadists whilst also challenging the pouvoir – knowing full well that their military and intelligence structures are compromised by their role in Algeria’s secret state but that they need this security apparatus to fight the jihadists if they do not want to have a repetition of the 1990s. Professionalism and patriotism is what is needed on the part of Algeria’s serving men and women in uniform now more than ever.

Reflecting on the Moderation of Tunisia’s Islamists – Professor Hussein Solomon


Reflecting on the Moderation of Tunisia’s Islamists

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 4 (February 2019)

It was Tunisian Muslims who in 2010 took to the streets of the country to overthrow the decrepit kleptocratic rule of President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali. Since then Tunisian Muslims have, by and large, been embracing traditional Islamic values whilst furthering the democratic project. Following the overthrow of the Ben Ali dictatorship during the Arab Spring, Muslim intellectuals utilizing the Qur’anic concepts of consensus, consultation and justice argued that democracy will only be viewed as legitimate if it speaks to the specificities of Tunisia’s histories and the needs of its citizens. The leader of Ennahda, an Islamist turned Islamic party, Rachid Ghannouchi, categorically called for the emancipation of women given the historic specificity that for more than sixty years Tunisia had the `Arab world’s most progressive and women-friendly family code.

To be sure, Ennahda did make mistakes with the hubris of one first coming to power and initially seemed to be more concerned with ensuring full control over the repressive state apparatus than reshaping these Ben Ali institutions to make it more responsive and accountable to citizens. Faced with a popular backlash, they quickly backtracked and reached out to the political opposition as well as to civil society groupings to rule more inclusively. Whilst critiquing Ennahda, it is important to give them credit too. Following the overthrow of Ben Ali, this party emerged the winner in elections for the Constituent Assembly in October 2011. Whilst in the assembly, Ennahda joined with secular parties to forge a coalition government. Moreover, Ennahda did not insist that the source of Tunisian law be Islam. This was a clear repudiation of the Islamist narrative regarding God’s sovereignty. Ennahda’s stance enforced the position of democrats everywhere – that in a democracy, the people were sovereign. Such a position was also in keeping with the principle of freedom of religion which Ennahda also championed.

The leader of Ennahda, Rachid Ghannouchi, reinvented the party as a party of “Muslim Democrats” similar to Christian Democratic Parties in Europe. As such, he split the party into two. One part, the formal political party, and the other focusing on proselytising. This split between the two was also reinforced with Ennahda enacting new rules for party members. Its politicians are forbidden from speaking at mosques and its clerics are not allowed to lead the party. Whilst these seismic changes rankled more conservative Ennahda members, Ghannouchi passionately argued that the, “…presence of religion in society is not something that is decided or set by the state. It should be a bottom-up phenomenon and, with an elected parliament, to the extent that religion is represented in society, it is also represented in the state”.

To be sure, the moderation of Ennahda was also rooted in political expediency. Following the street protests in Egypt which served as setting the scene for the 2013 military coup which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda sought a tactical retreat rather than following the fate of the Brotherhood. Ennahda therefore handed power over to a technocratic government in January 2014. From its very founding, there was a discernible nationalist trait in Ennahda, which facilitated its ability to compromise and to find common ground with the secular opposition to Ben Ali’s tyranny. Ghannouchi, moreover was a pragmatic nationalist and sagely noted, “In this transitional situation, what we need is a broad consensus”. It was for this reason that political expediency aside, the moderation of Ennahda was not merely a political ploy but a deeper ideological change. This was to hold positive consequences for the future of the Tunisian state and society.

The creative genius of Tunisian Muslims was also on display in terms of how to deal with the thorny issue of secularism. Instead of Western notions of secularism, the Tunisians embraced the concept of a dawla madaniyah (civil state). In a civil state religious leaders accept the fact that the people are ultimately sovereign and make laws through their elected representatives. At the same time, the authorities in a civil state respect the legitimate role of religion in the public arena. In the process, an indigenous Islamic secularism is being realised. This stands in sharp contrast to previous attempts at secularism in the Muslim world such as in Ataturk’s Turkey or Reza Pahlavi’s Iran where secularism was enforced by a tiny political elite against the wishes of the religious majority. Tunisia’s form of Islamic secularism demonstrates its organic roots and therefore has a greater possibility of achieving success.

The scale of the reforms being undertaken in Tunisia is wholly unprecedented in the Islamic world. Following the 2011 revolution, a series of consultations occurred throughout the country regarding a new Constitution. This was duly enacted in 2014. However, there were other laws still on the statute books which contradicted the 2014 Constitution. To bring these laws in line with the constitution, President Beji Caid Essebi established a Commission for Individual Freedoms and Equality on 8 June 2018. Two months later the Commission duly proposed a raft of reforms that included decriminalizing homosexuality and ensured equal inheritance between the sexes. Prior to this legislation, sons were entitled twice the inheritance of that of their sisters. In addition, Muslim women were allowed to marry non-Muslim men. Prior to this, a ban was enforced which prevented Muslim women from marrying outside of their faith. Whilst some Islamic conservatives have condemned these societal reforms, believing it to be un-Islamic, and staged a march in the town of Sfax to protest the Commission’s proposals, the march only attracted one thousand people – out of a population of 11.4 million Tunisians and the protest march was only confined to one town. Human rights campaigners as well as the overwhelming majority of Tunisians supported the reform initiative. Given widespread domestic abuse, the government passed a bill criminalizing violence against women and in October 2018 another bill that outlawed all forms of racial discrimination got the nod from legislators and the public.

Whilst Tunisia’s young democracy continues to face challenges in the form of Islamic State’s violent terrorist actions, youth unemployment and growing extrajudicial police action, its democratic foundations continue to consolidate thanks to the pragmatism and moderation of Tunisia’s Islamists.

Examining the state of affairs: Egypt’s #Ten Year Challenge – Sanet Madonsela


Examining the state of affairs: Egypt’s #Ten Year Challenge

By Sanet Madonsela

Volume 7 (2019), Number 3 (January 2019)

The global phenomenon titled the #Ten Year Challenge began on the 11th January 2019, with KOCO News Chief Meteorologist, Damon Lane, displaying the effects of aging from 10 years ago to current through two pictures. This phenomenon rapidly spread on social media and provided people with an opportunity to reflect on the past decade. Inspired by this reflective challenge, this article seeks to examine Egypt’s state of affairs under the al-Sisi administration.

Former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, hand-picked General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to serve as his defence minister in August 2012. This move symbolized the promotion of a younger generation of army generals and a move towards a democratic transition. A year later, on 3 July 2013, al-Sisi led a military coup that removed Morsi from power. The coup followed mass protests over the deteriorating economic and human rights climate in the country, and resulted in al-Sisi winning the 2014 presidential election by an unbelievable 97%. General al-Sisi became President al-Sisi and in that way the military attempted to lend a credence of legitimacy on their political control over Egypt.

The new government, however, failed to establish its’ legitimacy, as it failed to build public trust in their governance of the country. Rule of law has been undermined by continued human rights violations and the lack of accountability of security actors. Extrajudicial killings, for instance, rose from 326 in 2015 to 754 in the first half of 2016. Furthermore, the al-Sisi administration has embarked on a counterterrorism campaign after Morsi’s ouster. His government believes that fighting the Muslim Brotherhood and its’ supporters is the only way to end terrorism and establish peace and security in Egypt. The removal of the Muslim Brotherhood has, however, created a vacuum as there was no alternative non-violent Islamist group. This vacuum has, in turn, made Egypt the ideal recruitment base for militant jihadi groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. The Egyptian government is still struggling to defeat the Islamic State since it launched its’ nationwide operation against armed fighters of Islamic State in February 2018. Despite these military operations, Egyptian control over the Sinai is growing ever more tenuous.

It is important to note that the country’s prisons have become a breeding ground for extremism and radicalization, as ordinary citizens are in prison with Brotherhood members, leftist revolutionaries and radical Islamists. This negligence could lead to a manipulation of Islamic narratives which could offer excellent conditions for breeding the next generation of extremists. The horrendous treatment of inmates has been highlighted by the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms in their report for 2015 and 2016. The document highlights 1344 incidents of torture and intentional medical neglect for the aforementioned period. To reiterate, the danger here is that such human rights abuses will serve to radicalize this prison population further.

In addition, Egypt is progressively moving towards becoming a surveillance state as its’ Parliament has passed a bill forcing restaurant and shop owners to install indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras. The government argues that this will prevent terrorist operations and assist with tracking culprits. Local authorities will not renew or grant new permits if the owners cannot verify that they installed surveillance cameras. Shops can also be closed or permits can be revoked if there is no compliance with the law.

There has also been a tighter squeeze on the country’s media as it is expected to demonstrate complete loyalty to the regime or face the danger of closure. Amnesty International stated that 113 people had been arrested in 2018 for expressing their views. Egypt has become a dangerous place for al-Sisi’s critics. Whilst ostensibly fighting Islamists, Cairo, has also incorporated the worse of the Islamists bigotry. In January 2019, an Egyptian television anchor was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for interviewing a gay man. The television channel was suspended by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation as it believes the channel promoted and disseminated homosexual slogans. This order directly violates freedom of expression, which is supposed to be protected by the Egyptian Constitution, the African Charter on People’s Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

It is worth mentioning that al-Sisi inherited a poor economy when he came into power in 2014. This has led him to sign a three-year contract with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016. This funding resulted in his administration executing reforms which included cutting state subsidies on basic goods and the introduction of new taxes. These measures have been critiqued as they hurt the poor and middle class citizens.. The state urgently needs to review their economic plans as their annual population growth is 2.4% per year, their education system is failing, their unemployment rate is 24.8%, its middle class is eroding, and 30% of its population lives in poverty. The country’s economy is projected to grow at 5.4% for 2019, but such growth is off a low base and invariably benefits the rich and connected as opposed to the poor. Moreover, economists argue that the Egyptian economy needs to grow at least 7.5% a year for it to improve the living conditions of its citizens. Al-Sisi launched a series of large infrastructure projects designed to create employment, but many investors are concerned about the military’s interference in the projects. These concerns are grounded, as the military is a predatory economic actor with a clear advantage in receiving public contracts. These doubts were reinforced when al-Sisi stated that the military could grow the economy faster than the private sector could. This makes the overall business environment unattractive to private investment. The deteriorating economic circumstances might well further erode the legitimacy of the regime and exacerbate the Islamist narrative.

This overview on Egypt’s human rights violations, the losing battle against terrorism, the deteriorating prison conditions, tight squeeze on the media, the eroding middle class, its’ status as a surveillance state, the high poverty and unemployment rate are just a few signs that Egypt risks becoming a failing state. Egypt is clearly failing the   #TenYearChallenge.

Another Angle to the Terrorist Attack on DusitD2 in Nairobi – Dr. Anneli Botha


Another Angle to the Terrorist Attack on DusitD2 in Nairobi

Dr. Anneli Botha

Volume 7 (2019), Number 2 (January 2019)

The recent attack directed at the DusitD2 hotel complex in Nairobi once again reminded security officials of the difficulties around dealing with an attack once it is in the execution phase. The reality is that any terrorist attack that reaches this point is categorised as an intelligence failure. While the investigations continue to determine who was involved throughout the operation, how it was planned, etc. the intelligence community, pressured by politicians and public alike would want to know why this attack could not have been prevented. However, all sides of this discussion should be reminded  to bear in mind that intelligence agencies – as part of a broader security apparatus – have to be right every time, while terrorists only have to be able to get through once to reach the public eye and ‘score’ in this never stopping game of manoeuvring and out-manoeuvring to intimidate through senseless violence. The twenty-one people who lost their lives and others injured in the attack, not to mention people living in Kenya and every person who plans to visit the country become pawns in this battle of will between al-Shabaab and other violent extremist organisations on one side and the Kenyan government, its people and every person who worked towards preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism on the other. On face value this attack is tragic to family and friends who lost a love one or those scarred physically and emotionally for life, but it might also have sealed al-Shabaab’s fate.

While al-Shabaab may justify its attacks by linking it to Kenya’s involvement in Somalia, there is so much more to this battle than the withdrawal of AMISOM and Kenyan forces from Somalia. This is especially considering existing troop reductions and also the Concept of Operations (CONOPs), that guides AMISOM’s activities and operations for the 2018-2021 period, marking the final phase of the transition and eventual exit from Somalia. Following UN Security Council Resolution 2372 issued in 2017, the UN has instructed AMISOM to reduce its uniformed personnel to a maximum 21,626 in readiness for a full pull-out in 2020. UNSCR 2372 was met with concern even from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who wrote to the Security Council in July 2018, advising that said plans to cut AMISOM troops were not realistic, especially after al-Shabaab continued to successfully execute attacks in Somalia.[1] Kenya was concerned that a premature withdrawal could reenergize al-Shabaab to start attacking the country after a period of calm (with the exception of smaller attacks in north-eastern Kenya and northern Coastal regions). This attack on 15 January 2019 in Westlands (on the third anniversary of the El Adde attack[2] in Somalia that claimed the lives of between 141–150 Kenyan soldiers, while another 11 soldiers were captured and 12 wounded), barely three kilometres from Westgate proved Kenya’s point. Strategically, by attacking Kenya at the centre of attention will only hurt al-Shabaab, playing into the hands of security officials looking to justify remaining in Somalia till the Somali government managed to ensure peace and security. It would have made sense if al-Shabaab followed the same strategy than in Somalia to outwait AMISOM’s withdrawal and then reclaim areas previously controlled, after the initial tactical withdrawal of al-Shabaab fighters once confronted by a military force they could not withstand. Especially, considering the overall success that extremist organisations till now had by playing the long game through spreading often unnoticed to the public eye throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

In other words, instead of ensuring the withdrawal of AMISOM and Kenyan forces, the attack on DusitD2 might just have secured the remaining of Kenyan forces in Somalia. If this will be the outcome of the attack, Kenya might have suffered an intelligence failure, but al-Shabaab on the other hand could have made a massive strategic blunder.


[1]Fred Oluoch. Amisom ready to withdraw. The East African, 12 November 2018. Available at (accessed on 15 November 2018).

[2] Robyn Kriel and Briana Duggan. Kenya covers up military massacre. CNN, 31 May 2016. Available at (accessed on 2 June 2016).


Iran Educates and Radicalizes Africa through Religion – Dr. Glen Segell


Iran Educates and Radicalizes Africa through Religion

By Glen Segell

Research Fellow, Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa

Volume 7 (2019), Number 1 (January 2019)

Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world. Iranian diplomats, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and subordinate organs are engaged in spreading this and Shiite Muslim doctrine. [1]

The spread of these in Africa, is in part, through the same manner that Christian Missionaries used during the era of colonialism, through education. [2] As then as now Africans face destruction of their culture, religion and education through continued advancement of foreign culture, religion and language to supplant the traditional African.

There is no doubt that Iran is using the Al-Mustafa International University network as a formidable educational tool to export its revolution and Shiite Muslim doctrine. It was founded in 2007, as Iran’s foremost religious institution with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as its highest authority. It now has over one hundred branches across the Islamic world, which train foreign clerics and missionaries around the world.

In a speech to students and staff, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explained Tehran’s mandate to spread ‘pure Islamic thoughts’ and liberate the Islamic nation from ‘the arrogant powers’ hand of oppression and aggression,’ and emphasized the role that Al-Mustafa plays in carrying out this mission. [3] Al-Mustafa explicit goal is also to spread the Iranian regime’s anti-American ideology and promote its self-proclaimed mandate to ‘liberate Palestine’ and ‘eradicate Israel.’ Similarly, the dean of the language and culture department at Al-Mustafa has declared that ‘our goal is the export of revolution.’ [4]

The significance and importance of Africa are apparent. Since 2007, more than 45,000 clerics and Islamic scholars have graduated from Al-Mustafa of which 5,000 were from Africa, and a good portion of them have been hired by the university as teaching staff or missionaries and sent to different countries around the globe. In early 2019 it has more than 40,000 students, half of whom study at campuses across Iran with 5,000 of the totals being from Africa. Of these 5,000 African students, nearly 2,000 study in Iran, some 1,200 of whom learn at the Mashhad campus. [5]

In return for this education, Africans are indoctrinated and encouraged to be radicalized promoting the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary doctrine and to engage in religious wars both locally and elsewhere. In this context, Al-Mustafa works to organize al-Quds rallies in African countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda. [6] In December 2015, the centers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria – a pro-Tehran Shiite organization with thousands of members – was attacked and dozens of activists were killed, one of many such events in the Islam- Christian feuds in that state. [7] A senior Al-Mustafa official took great pride in the fact that well-known radicals and terrorists Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, and Sheikh Zakzaky in Nigeria are fruits of Al-Mustafa’s teachings. [8]

Al-Mustafa acts as a formidable tool for recruiting candidates for the Iranian regime’s activities, including direct participation in Iran’s imperial wars. Since the start of the civil war in Syria and Tehran’s military intervention to save the Bashar Assad regime, there have been numerous reports in the Iranian media about funerals for Al-Mustafa students killed in Syria. In March 2016, one of the university’s directors declared that ‘some of the foreign fighters deployed by Iran and sent to Syria were Al-Mustafa’s students and clerics.’ [9]

The extent of Al-Mustafa’s operations is enormous and widespread. It has seventeen main branches in sub-Saharan Africa and runs some one hundred schools, mosques, and seminaries in thirty African countries. Al-Mustafa’s most important African centers are in Nigeria, a country with several million Shiites, where the university operates five schools and seminaries with nearly one thousand students from Nigeria and neighboring states. [10]

Following in importance in West Africa is Ghana where Al-Mustafa runs the Islamic University College Ghana (IUCG) with nearly one thousand students. Al-Mustafa also has a Shiite seminary in the capital Accra with clerics from Ghana and neighboring countries. In 2015, Al-Mustafa launched the Fatima religious schools for girls in Accra where the Ahl al-Bait Mosque hosts some of its public events. In tandem Iranian diplomatic outreach to Ghana is increasing. In February 2016, the president of Ghana visited Iran and met with Khamenei, signed two memoranda of understanding with the Iranian government and met with Al-Mustafa’s vice president to discuss the university’s activities. [11]

Other Al-Mustafa West African sites include: Cameroon – a branch in Cameroon and two seminaries, one for men and another for women; Guinea – the Ahl al-Bait school; Ivory Coast – the Shiite seminary of Ahl al-Bait and the Zeynab seminary for women; Niger – a branch in the capital city of Niamey; Mali – a branch.; Senegal – a campus in Dakar; and in Sierra Leon – the International Institute of Islamic Studies (IIIS) in the capital city of Freetown and the Imam Hossein Seminary in Makeni. [12]

The Al-Mustafa’s presence in East African countries is noticeable in Tanzania, which operates as a center for neighboring countries. This includes a branch in the capital city of Dar Es-Salaam and a seminary called Imam Sadigh. In central and southern Africa the main centers are: Congo a branch in Kinshasa; Uganda – the Al-Mustafa’s Islamic College; Madagascar – a branch of the university in the capital city of Antananarivo, other affiliated centers include the Imam Sadjad Mosque, the Rasul Akram Mosque and the Islamic Center of Dar al-Quran in the city of Mahajanga; Malawi – a branch in the capital city of Lilongwe; and in South Africa a branch in Johannesburg, which collaborates closely with ICRO’s Islamic Center of Ahl al-Bait in Cape Town. [13]

The Al-Mustafa International University network is just one example of Iran using education to export its Islamic Revolution and Shiite Muslim doctrine. In doing so there is evidence of the ongoing destruction of the traditional culture, religion and education of African states. This might reflect that the Islamic Republic of Iran has succeeded in exporting a form of revolution around Africa. There is a radicalization of the population that are encouraged to engage in religious wars. But as with Christian missionaries, Africa tends to blend and merge their own with the foreign. So there is no indication that Iran has or will succeed in its own Revolution or in converting all Africa to pure Shiite doctrine.



[1] Michael Axworthy. 2013. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Kwame Nkrumah. 1974. Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Ghana: Panaf Books.

[3] Hassan Dai. 2016. Al Mustafa University, Iran’s global network of Islamic schools. Iranian American Forum, 12 April 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at

[6] Fars News Agency (Tehran), 28 January 2017.

[7] Solomon Timothy Anjide Okoli, and Al Chukwuma. 2017. New Trajectory of Islamic Extremism in Northern Nigeria: A Threat-Import Analysis of Shiite’s Uprising. International Journal of African and Asian Studies, Volume 32, No.1 pp. 41-51.

[8] Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin. 2016. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to ISIS. Sacramento: University of California Press.

[9] Ruhollah Tabatabei, ABNA, TV News, 7 March 2016.

[10] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at

[11] President of Ghana Visited Iran after 37 Years. Alwaght News, 14 February 2016.

[12] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at

[13] Ibid.









Sudanese Intifada 2.0 – Professor Hussein Solomon


Sudanese Intifada 2.0

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 6 (2018), Number 20 (December 2018)

On the 30th January 2011 popular protests erupted across Sudan as part of the regional Arab Spring protests against an authoritarian government which did little to uplift the economic plight of ordinary citizens. Dubbed the Sudanese Intifada, these protests dissipated as a result of a combination of harsh security measures and promises of reform. This December, Sudan seems to be going through a second Intifada.

Beginning on the 19th December in the city of Atbara, the protests quickly engulfed the rest of the country of 40 million people. More importantly, while protests began for economic reasons, it quickly morphed into calls for regime change. The initial trigger was the price of a loaf of bread which tripled overnight from one Sudanese pound to three. The current economic crisis was entirely predictable. Sudan’s economy was heavily oil-dependent and with the 2011 secession of South Sudan, Khartoum lost three-quarters of its oil output. To balance the budget, President Omar al Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) embarked on various austerity measures. These only served to impoverish ordinary Sudanese as no meaningful economic reforms were simultaneously undertaken. The lack of such structural economic measures, in turn, resulted in foreign investment drying up. By October 2018, the Sudanese Central Bank felt compelled to devalue the Sudanese pound from 29 to 47.5 Sudanese pounds to the US dollar. Prices increased overnight. Indeed inflation increased by 70 percent. The extent of the economic malaise is seen in the fact that in many cases, citizens cannot withdraw their own money from banks and when they can, withdrawals is restricted to 500 Sudanese pounds (approximately US $10) at a time – hardly enough to cover one’s living expenses for a single day.

Whilst the protests have its origins in economic conditions, as in 2011, it quickly morphed into a political movement given the kleptocratic nature of NCP rule. This was seen by protestors storming government buildings and calling for an end to al-Bashir’s long reign. Al-Bashir initially came to power in 1989 in a military coup. His rule has been characterised by human rights abuses – most egregiously in Darfur where he has been accused of genocide and still has charges to answer for at the International Criminal Court.

The government’s handling of the protests merely served to fuel the protests further. Use of live ammunition on protestors served to further anger ordinary Sudanese. According to official government figures, 12 people were killed. Opposition sources, however, put the death toll much higher. Given the average age of protestors (between the ages of 17-23) government shut down school and universities as well as blocking internet access to prevent social media serving as a platform for popular moblilization as it had during the Arab Spring protests. Curfews and declarations of states of emergency followed. Khartoum also attempted to deny the legitimate grievances of citizens by characterizing the protests as the work of “infiltrators”.

None of this served to endear Al-Bashir and the NCP to ordinary citizens. Recognizing the popular rage, they were confronted with, the regime attempted to assuage citizens’ fury with promises of economic reforms which would increase the quality of life of ordinary citizens. There are however several reasons to believe that Sudanese Intifada 2.0 will not dissipate as the initial protests from 2011-2013 did. First, ordinary Sudanese simply do not believe the government. Government made promises before and they have not been kept. Under the current constitution, for example, presidential elections is to be held in 2020 and al-Bashir is ineligible to stand on account of him having served his two constitutionally-mandated terms. However, there is a concerted attempt on the part of al-Bashir and the NCP to amend the constitution and allow him to run for president yet again. Second, the protestors this time round do have a credible opposition political figure to rally around in the form of Sadiq al-Mahdi who recently returned from self-imposed exile to a hero’s welcome. Immediately upon arrival he called for a democratic transition. It should be noted that al-Mahdi was the last democratically-elected president and he was overthrown in the 1989 coup which brought al-Bashir to power. Third, whilst protests initially began amongst disenchanted and unemployed youth, it has quickly spread to other sectors of society including trade unions. Finally the rapid spread of the protests from Atbara to Manaqil, Rufaa, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Um Rawaba and Gadarif suggest this is truly a national Intifada. 2019 ought to be an interesting year for Sudan and the wider region!