A local official said that armed jihadists stormed a refugee camp in the Tahoua region bordering Mali and Burkina Faso and killed nine people. It was reported that at least 34 people were killed in clashes between soldiers and anti-government fighters in a disputed town around Somalia. The region’s government said that armed men attacked army bases and state offices in the morning. It accused unnamed “traditional leaders” of recruiting the attackers and said it thwarted the assault. At least 34 people were killed and 40 wounded in the clashes, Mohamed Farah told Reuters. Sub-Saharan Africa is the new global epicentre of Islamic extremism, with people increasingly joining because of economic factors, according to a new report by the UNDP.

In late 2014, a fighter from the Islamic State stood at a location on the border between Iraq and Syria and declared, “we have ended Sykes-Picot.”

That statement was a tagline for many who worried about the continuation of the controversial Anglo-French agreement from 1916 that drew the modern-day borders of the Middle East from a dying Ottoman Empire.

Despite the deeply contested nature of many of the world’s borders today, there is a tangible level of agreement, at least on paper, by states to respect each other’s sovereignty. The end of the Second World War witnessed a reduction in state-led aggression despite the ubiquity of border clashes in a few regions. Non-state actors, however, think very differently. At the height of its powers between 2014 and 2017, ISIS sought to redraw the map of the Middle East and went about its cross-border attacks seamlessly. That same approach can be seen in how cross-border attacks have been carried out by Islamist groups in Africa, particularly in the western Sahel.

In March 2021, jihadists massacred 141 civilians in the Mali-Niger border region. The following May, 16 soldiers from Niger died in an ambush, after which 35 civilians were killed in another jihadist attack in November. Beyond radical Islam’s goal of proselytisation, these attacks are facilitated and made possible by the weak border and governance systems of the region’s states. Despite being blighted by a decade of Boko Haram insurgency, they are yet to take the initiative to strengthen cooperation on border security.

Further east in the Horn of Africa, the clashes in Sool region came a day after a committee of local leaders, religious scholars and civil society groups said they did not recognise the Somaliland administration. The group said that it represented the interests of people in the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC). For years, Somaliland has been hailed as a stable and peaceful state though it i’s recognised by only 35 countries and is not a member of the United Nations or the African Union. However, trouble looms because of its proximity to Somalia’s combustible mix. The town of Laascaanood continues to be violence-prone as the territory is disputed by Somaliland and Puntland, an autonomous Somali federal member state with increasingly recurring attacks in the town. Between November 2022 and now, there have been at least four attacks. Anti-government protests erupted after a politician was shot dead, leading to clashes with police in which at least eight other people were killed.

Fighting a two-front security crisis with Somaliland and Alshabaab is a nightmare for a Mogadishu that faces a legitimacy crisis over its poor handling of economic issues and national security. More broadly, according to the UNDP report, there has been a 57 percent decrease in the number of people joining extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa for religious reasons. However, something more fundamental has replaced the religious imperative: 92 percent of new recruits are joining for better livelihoods compared to the motivations of the 2,200 people interviewed in a 2017 report conducted in eight African countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan. At least 4,155 attacks across the continent have been documented since 2017, said the report. In these attacks, 18,417 deaths were recorded, with Somalia accounting for the largest fatalities. Governments across the continent have to do all it takes to salvage the piling ruins of their nation-states or risk deepening the security contagion. The jury is clear on the stakes: Africa is political jihad’s current home.