How Sahel rebel groups use online diplomacy
This blog was originally published on Medium.com, based on their article, ‘Rebel diplomacy and digital communication: public diplomacy in the Sahel’, published in the November 2019 issue of International Affairs.
In the absence of access to privileged diplomatic channels, rebel groups engage in more public relations with foreign elites, international organizations and civil society groups. Digital tools, like social media, have given the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations a much louder voice, and there is little doubt that they are also important for rebel groups engaged in civil wars.
"Digital tools, like social media, have given the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations a much louder voice".
New communication technologies have become essential for the projection of identity, and today’s rebel groups see social media as instrumental for their survival. Online communication has enabled them to carve out more power than they ever had before. In our recent article for International Affairs, we examine two rebel groups in Mali, in the Sahel: the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Dine. The MNLA are a separatist group which aims to create a new state in the north of Mali. Whereas Ansar Dine is a home-grown Islamist group, which aimed to impose shari’a law and was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 2013. It later merged with Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to become Jama at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).