M.A. candidates and Abd el Kader (AEK) fellowship team members, Oluwagbemiga Oyeneye and Erick Agbleke, recently conducted and presented research for U.S. Army Africa. Since the fellowship team's inception, students have engaged with author John Kiser, who wrote Commander of The Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd El-Kader, and have presented research on counterterrorism in Afghanistan to high-level officials at the U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), based out of Italy, provides military assistance and humanitarian aid for African countries. They also work with international bodies in Africa like the African Union to ensure that the peace and security of the continent is upheld. To further advance their knowledge in under-researched areas, USARAF presented ongoing requirements and research topics for AEK fellows to tackle that align with U.S. military and national security interests in Africa.
Out of the ideas that were proposed, the fellows chose to devote their team research to cultivating strategies to tackle violent extremism in the Maghreb. But under the guidance of the School of Diplomacy's AEK fellow, Mohamad Mirghahari, B.A. '02, M.A. '04, Oluwagbemiga Oyeneye and Erick Agbleke went a step further and embarked on individual research projects based on their expertise and personal connection to some of the proposed topics.
Oyeneye, hailing from Nigeria, focused his research on the presidential elections in his home country. His work, "The Nigerian 2019 Elections: Risks and Trends of the South Eastern Separatist Movement," provides insight into the recent Nigerian elections amid the separatist movement happening in the South. Oyeneye's research identifies the separatist movement and "fragile democracy" as being potentially disruptive to Nigerian security but notes that a successful election and the economic growth that Africa has been experiencing can suppress these negative influences.
With Nigeria set to be the third most populous country and the fourth largest democracy in the world, Oyeneye notes that it is not surprising that American strategies have been quick to foster a win-win relationship with them. He recommends that following the elections, the new leadership create policies that are inclusive of all Nigerians, regardless of their political affiliation. An abridged version of Oyeneye's work has been picked by International Policy Digest, a prominent online magazine that reports on world news and current events.
Agbleke, a researcher from Togo, centered his research on cyber development in Africa. His project, "The African Cyber Revolution: Impact Analysis on Trends and Societal Norms," dives into the impact of the internet's influence over Africa. With the growth of the cyber and communication sectors in Africa, he believes that USARAF should take advantage of social media platforms to work with youth and combat extremism that has gripped some African countries. Since terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab tend to seek out young men to join their forces, youth are vulnerable to appeal that these groups offer. But Agbleke suggests that USARAF should work with regional security organizations to cultivate strategies that limit the groups' online influence while enhancing the cyber sector throughout the continent.
Both papers provide a necessary and updated view of Africa's growing potential to produce major global powers. The final student presentations were well-received by USARAF who praised them for being a great starting point for research on American presence in Africa. Their reports were shared with the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, AFRICOM, and the U.S. Department of State. USARAF is hopeful that Oyeneye and Agbleke's work will serve as the stepping stone for more impactful research to be done right here in the United States and possibly abroad.
Curious to see where else diplomacy students have contributed their knowledge? Check out our Great Minds page.