Jihadism in Mali Fueled by “injustice, poverty and misery”: Missionary Cleric

The national flag of Mali.

Jihadism that has bedeviled Mali is fueled by injustice, poverty and misery, a missionary Cleric ministering in the West African nation has said, noting that the way to fight the violence is to address the three challenges.

“Jihadism is fueled by injustice, poverty and misery. Thousands of unemployed young people look for hope, which they find in an extreme form of religiosity that leads them to take up arms against anyone who does not profess their faith,” Fr. Arvedo Godina has been quoted as saying in a November 4 report.

According to Fr. Arvedo who is a member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), while jihadism has “emerged in recent years,” the factors contributing to it “have their roots in history.”

The Cleric explains in the November 4 report, “10,000 boys and girls graduate each year. Of these, only a thousand can find work immediately. The other 9,000 remain unemployed. They keep applying for public positions; they struggle with a thousand jobs, but often without hope of recovery. Some emigrate. But nobody has concrete perspectives.”

According to Fr. Arvedo, the failure of the political leaders to respond to the needs of the population coupled with “widespread corruption” that has harbored the social and economic growth of the country, have made many young people desperate.


The woes of the Malian population are exacerbated by the fact that the West African nation is an international drug trafficking hub, which the United Nations (UN) says is worth 26 billion per year.

The drug trade “leads to further corruption, violence, despair and drug addiction,” the Missionary Cleric who has served in the landlocked country for 52 years adds.

Amid the challenges, "Many hopeless young people have sought refuge in the arms of the jihadist networks,” the Cleric who has served as a prison Chaplain says.

He adds referencing the young people, “They say they are fighting against Westerners and Christians who they see as the cause of their misery.”

“That is why I repeat: jihadism is fought by defeating widespread poverty in the first place,” he says in the November 4 report.

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In his prison ministry, the Cleric tries to reach out to the jihadists, he says in the report, explaining, "I talk to them, I try to support them. I get medication when they need it. I explain Christianity to them and help them understand it and dialogue with them”

The Missionary Cleric has developed a “deep friendship” with some of the jailed jihadists while others, he says, “reject dialogue and become radicalized.”

Those who reject dialogue “read the Koran over and over again and draw the most extreme teachings from it. So, when they are released, they are ready to return to the ranks of Islamist fighters," Fr. Arvedo says.

Located in the crisis-stricken Central Sahel region, Mali has been engulfed in violence and conflict since 2012 when Touareg fighters launched attacks in the Northern part of the country. 

The attacks were soon taken over by armed groups who took control of Northern regions for some months before Malian soldiers, with the support of the French military, overpowered them in 2013.


However, the country continues to experience frequent inter-ethnic conflicts pitting the Fulani against the Dogon communities.

Despite the intervention of foreign soldiers under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Malian crisis has deepened with jihadist groups operating in neighboring Central Sahel nations of Burkina Faso and Niger advancing into Central Mali.

The Central Sahel crisis has attracted international attention with Caritas Internationalis describing it as “one of the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises” and outlining five lines of action to address the conflict.