Competitive control? ‘Hearts and minds’ and the population control strategy of the Islamic State West Africa Province

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Aiming to win “hearts and minds,” the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is widely thought to have been less violent toward civilians than the original “Boko Haram.” This article employs the underutilized notion of “competitive control” to explore the strategy underpinning this approach. In doing so, it examines the logic of ISWAP’s strategy of population control, in particular its efforts to capture the population through the establishment of a predictable system of order. Ultimately, this article demonstrates how ISWAP’s “hearts and minds” approach (and its violent limits) have supported the group’s economic/military strategy in a competitive eco-system of violence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Security
Early online date29 Mar 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 29 Mar 2023


  • Islamic State West Africa Province
  • Competitive Control
  • Populations
  • Nigeria

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