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Recent events in several sub-Saharan African countries raise concerns that religiously motivated violent conflict is on the rise. Perpetrated mainly by a number of extremist religious groups claiming Islamic or Christian identity, which has escalated during the last decade, this phenomenon is becoming one of the main challenges to peace and security on the African continent and requires renewed attention from policymakers at the national and international levels. The U.S. government (USG) should pay particular attention given the United States’ commitment to religious freedom, as exemplified in its adoption of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. Addressing the issue of religious violence in sub-Saharan Africa requires not only a multi-level policy approach, but also the development of a holistic framework that will enable analysts and scholars to address the complexity of its causality, since religious violence is never only about religion.

In addressing the problem of religious violence in sub-Saharan Africa, this policy brief deals with the framework rather than the details of specific countries. It singles out three major factors that, if acted upon, could reduce the likelihood of religious violence occurring in Africa: 1) the politics of marginalization and exclusion; 2) arms trafficking and religious violence; and 3) interreligious dialogue and education for peace. Each section is concluded with recommendations for African institutions and U.S. policymakers to consider.

For more thoughts by Ludovic Lado, please visit our blog, Africa Up Close, here.

Dr. Ludovic Lado is a Southern Voices African Research Scholar with the Africa Program at The Wilson Center, and Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Dignity at the Centre de Recherche et d’Action poir la Paix (CERAP) 

You can access the full pdf below.

This is Research Paper No. 6 of The Southern Voices Network publication series.

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About the Author

Ludovic Lado

Southern Voices African Research Scholar;
Director of Institute of Human Rights and Dignity, Center of Research and Action for Peace
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Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.–Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, including our blog Africa Up Close, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.–Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, including our blog Africa Up Close, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more