Conflict and Fragility

Reports and papers

Customary Legitimacy

14 Feb 2022 - 17:55

Over the past decade, the border regions of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have become the epicenter of violent conflict dynamics, including a dramatic increase in violent extremist activity.  In the face of these challenges, the Sahel region’s historical and cultural traditions of tolerance and moderation remain a critical bulwark against violent extremist influence and a solid foundation for efforts to build peace.

The series of reports produced by the Customary Characters in Uncustomary Circumstances project supports these efforts by furthering an understanding of the role of traditional and religious authorities in strengthening and/or weakening community resilience to violent extremism in the Sahel. Based on analysis of extensive quantitative and qualitative data, the project team has created the following reports to explore the role of these authorities in building resilience to violent extremism across six studied regions, and has developed in-detail policy recommendations and entry points for international and national actors seeking to support traditional and religious leaders in their resilience role.

This project explores community resilience against violent extremism. It assesses specifically how traditional and religious authorities can improve the resilience of their community. We surveyed 35 municipalities in the Ménaka and Gao regions (Mali), the Tillabéri region (Niger), and the Sahel, Est, and Centre-Nord regions (Burkina Faso). Results are based on 1400 quantitative surveys and 600 qualitative interviews.)

In partnership with USAID and ICCT.

Explore the reports and the data.

Publication schedule 

  • 16 February: Burkina Faso's Est Region
  • 23 February: Burkina Faso's Sahel Region
  • 2 March: Burkina Faso's Centre-Nord Region
  • 9 March: Mali's Northeastern Region
  • 16 March: Niger's Tillabéri Region
  • 23 March: Synthesis Report Customary Characters in Uncustomary Circumstances
  • 30 March: Programming and Policy Recommendations


Kars de Bruijne, Fransje Molenaar, Anna Schmauder, Rida Lyammouri, Abdoul Aziz Azeibou, Annabelle Willeme and Thomas Caulier  (the Clingendael Institute)

Julie Coleman, Méryl Demuynck, Luca Vellage, Nicolas Libert (ICCT)

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