The Fulani are an ethnic group of around 40 million people who inhabit Africa’s Sahel region, the transitional biozone that spans the African continent from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and where the sands of the Sahara gradually give way to the savanna of central Africa. Traditionally a pastoral nomadic culture, they have long experienced tensions in some of the communities they call home, and are often treated as outsiders. Some of these conflicts have made international headlines recently, most notably in central Mali, where Jihadist groups and a lack of governmental authority have left communities vulnerable, and where competition for resources and mistrust have brought them into bloody conflict with other tribal groups.
This first of a two-part conversation about the Fulani people offers some compelling insights into how Jihadist groups are able to gain traction in isolated communities, and a more local perspective on global security issues that are traditionally given from a European or American perspective.
Dougoukolo Ba-Konare is a clinical psychologist and teacher of Fula Language and Societies at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris, and a founding member of Kisal (an organization working on the promotion of human rights in the Sahel.