Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos

In Nigeria, the Islamic terrorism of Boko Haram raises a lot of questions about the political relationship between so-called "religious" violence and the state. At least three of them expose our confusions about islamization, conversion, radicalization and the politicization of religion, namely:
– Is it a religious uprising or a political contest for power?
– How does it express a social revolt?
– How indicative is it of a radicalization of the patterns of protest of the Muslims in Northern Nigeria?
A fieldwork study shows that Boko Haram is not so much political because it wants to reform the society, but mainly because it reveals the intrigues of a weak government and the fears of a nation in the making. Otherwise, the radicalization of Islam cannot be limited to terrorism and it is difficult to know if the movement is more extremist, fanatic and murderous than previous uprising like the one of Maitatsine in Kano in 1980. The capacity of Boko Haram to develop international connections and to challenge the state is not exceptional as such. Far from the clichés on a clash of civilizations between the North and the South, the specificity of the sect in Nigeria has more to do with its suicide attacks. Yet the terrorist evolution of Boko Haram was first and foremost caused by the brutality of the state repression, more than alleged contacts with an international jihadist movement.

Boris Samuel

In 2004 the government of Mauritania admitted that for the past ten years its national macroeconomic and financial data had been falsified. This admission revealed a small part of the fraudulent practices that took place during the Taya era which ended in 2005. But it also showed that the economic management of this "good student" had become ensnared in true "bureaucratic anarchy". Beginning in 2005, when the democratic transition should have enabled the public administration's house to be put in order, reforms were often motivated by a desire to improve the image of the regime and were thus less than effective. Then, following the elections of 2007, and in the midst of financial scandals, the government developed a technocratic approach which alienated the Mauritanian public who perceived a power vacuum. A new coup d'etat occurred during the summer of 2008. The "Rectification Movement" of general Abdel Aziz acquired legitimacy as a result of its fight against terrorism in Sahel. Employing populist rhetoric and adopting the moral high ground in the fight against rampant corruption, the Movement favored lax management of resources and tight, even authoritarian, control of public finances.

Since the war began in 2002, an unprecedented social movement has taken hold in the Ivory Coast, the "Patriotic Youth," that rallies around a violent ultranationalist and anti-colonialist discourse. Supported by mass organizations that control the urban areas, the Patriotic Youth have become central political actors and a shock weapon used by the government in power. While acknowledging this political instrumentalization, the Etude goes beyond functionalist interpretations of the Patriotic Youth phenomenon in attempt to grasp the driving sociological forces and assess their scope. Based on unpublished surveys conducted in Abidjan among grassroots activists of the "Patriotic galaxy," it demonstrates that also at stake in this grand nationalist fervor is the emergence of a new political generation, involving FESCI student unionism, which today makes violent claims to rights and social recognition. In this hypothesis, the anti-colonialist register is used as a vocabulary expressing generational revolution and emancipation of a fraction of the youth that has experimented with violence in union struggles and in war. It concludes by examining the influence of this phenomenon with regard to a possible resolution of the crisis. Beyond its institutional dimensions, the Ouagadougou accord paves the way for a change of political generation, the "Fescists" – both patriots and rebels – who have managed to impose themselves on the heirs of Houphouetism.

Denis-Constant Martin

The emergence of political movements, which have recently taken the centre stage in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharian Africa, has raised once again the question of the preconditions for, and the forms of, political change. In particular it draws attention to the relationship between lasting phenomena -those which, at least in certain respects, indicate social continuity - and phenomena which fundamentally disturb the social order bringing in their wake immediate change. One two-fold interpretation of these developments has been particularly persuasive. On the one hand, as far as Europe is concerned, it is suggested that there has been a "return to a previously flouted identity" or "refinding of the past". As for Africa, these changes are described in terms of "tribalism" or "clanish reactions". Unfortunately such an interpretation does not help us to fully understand the interactions between long-lasting and short-lived phenomena. The paper proposes several ways to go beyond this dichotomy and to avoid over or underestimating phenomena of one kind to the detriment of those of the other. It suggests that the cultural impregnation of political systems, practices and representations can be analytically reconstructed within the concept of "political culture". This concept both embraces the idea of dynamism (giving impetus to political innovation) while taking into account the complexity of the means of transmission (assuring continuity). Arguing from the assumption that continuity feeds innovation, this paper examines three types of duality: the dialectic between external and internal dynamics; the emotional/rational dichotomy and the opposition between tradition and innovation. All of these must be observed both within the "official" political arena as well as in contexts that, while ostensibly non-political, can be "invested" by political thought and action.