Project - Collective Jihadist Radicalisation

Party Competition and Collective Jihadist Radicalisation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research

Over the past three decades, jihadist milieus dominated by militant Islamist clerics have emerged across sub-Saharan Africa. Existing research on this development largely focusses on the enabling conditions for collective jihadist radicalization while factors working against the popularization of militant Islamist ideologies are still relatively under-studied. The project addresses this research gap by investigating the preventive capacities of party politics. The project is therefore guided by the following overarching research question: What prevents collective Jihadist radicalization?

Specifically, the project seeks to explain the sub-national (non-)occurrence of collective Jihadist radicalization in four African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana and Tanzania. Our focus on these countries grounds in the empirical puzzle that there exist sub-national settings where, despite the combined presence of all major hitherto identified enabling conditions for collective Jihadist radicalisation, Islamist violence has not turned into a substantial security threat. Building on existing theory-oriented research on the emergence and dynamics of Jihadist collective action in sub-Saharan Africa, the project asserts that the exploration of the relationship between broader patterns of Salafi-oriented Islamic contention and secular party competition can provide an important contribution to the solution of this puzzle.

One of the key insights emerging from recent research is that the spread of militant Islamism is linked to pre-existing (principally non-religious) group tensions that become “remoulded” along religious lines. Seeking to complement this finding, we investigate in how far the electoralization of such tensions may block the opening up of political space for substantial Jihadist activity. By addressing this question, the project not just contributes to the literature on jihadist radicalisation but also promises to provide valuable insights into the macro-sociological effects of party systems and varying degrees of party institutionalization in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our methodological strategy consists in conducting controlled qualitative comparisons and reconstructing causal mechanisms through field research-based process tracing. This strategy will be implemented in close cooperation with our local research partners. Moreover, based on our research findings, we also intend to initiate a policy-oriented dialogue with different non-scholarly stakeholders in the countries under investigation.


Project Management


Prof. Dr. Christof Hartmann

Room: LS 120
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-4421
E-Mail: christof.hartmann[at]
Staff Portfolio


Project Staff


Jannis Saalfeld, M.A.

Room: LS 034
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-3847
E-Mail: jannis.saalfeld[at]
Staff Portfolio

Student Assistant

Jan Bollmann, B.A.

Room: LS 033
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-1916
E-Mail: jan.bollmann[at]
Staff Portfolio


Saalfeld, Jannis 2021: Inter-Secular Party Competition and the (Non-)Formation of Salafi-Jihadist Milieus: Evidence from Tanzania, in: Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (online first). DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2021.1945187

Saalfeld, Jannis / Hartmann, Christof 2020: Does Electoral Inclusion Constrain Jihadist Radicalisation in Africa? Development and Peace Blog, 08.12.2020.