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The Islamic State in Central Africa and the Centrality of Children in its Expansion Strategy

Cecilia Polizzi

/ Analysis

The terrorist threat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been on the rise in recent years. In March 2023, the north-eastern regions of the DRC, Ituri and Kivu, were once again hit by deadly attacks against civilians led by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In two separate events, the ADF killed 50 people and burned several buildings, including a health center. In June 2023, over 40 people died following the attack against a school by the ADF in Uganda, and more students were abducted. This alarming pattern echoes a disquieting trend observed across sub-Saharan Africa. Within the broader context of Islamic State affiliates, sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as a focal point for violent extremist operations. While Islamic State provinces in Afghanistan and Syria may have experienced a decline in their capabilities and territorial influence, Islamic State affiliates in West and Central Africa have significantly expanded their operational reach. This article contends that the ADF is undergoing a fast and metastasizing evolution, posing serious concerns for the security of the region and beyond.

An examination of the ADF, exposes firmly established ideological, financial, and operational links with the Islamic State. The group ́s rebranding as the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) also signifies this association. A salient characteristic of jihadist groups, whether affiliated with Al-Qaida or the Islamic State, is their deployment of tactics and strategies for the recruitment, use, and ideological indoctrination of children. Notably, the ADF/ISCAP adoption of violent extremist ideology, modus operandi, and expansionistic aims mirroring the Islamic State strategy coincides with the growing showcasing of children in its propaganda material as well as an increase in the involvement of children in its Katibas units and military operations. Therefore, the objectives of this article are twofold. It seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of the ADF/ ISCAP's trajectory, strategies, and tactics, as well as its ambitions, prospects, and potential impacts in Central Africa. Secondly, it aims to raise awareness regarding child exploitation as a means to support ADF/ISCAP expansionistic and military aims across the region and underscore the need for concerted efforts to address security and child protection concerns.

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Shaping Futures

@2023 CRTG Working Group

New York City

Working Group on Children Recruited 

by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups Corp. 

EIN 30:1232924

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