The Sahel Research Group at the University of Florida is a collaborative effort to understand the political, social, economic and cultural dynamics of the countries of the West African Sahel. Our focus is primarily on the six Francophone countries of the region—Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. We are also interested in developments in neighboring countries, to the north and south, whose dynamics frequently intersect with those of the Sahel. The Sahel Research Group brings together faculty and graduate students from various disciplines at the University of Florida, in collaboration with colleagues from the region.
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Sahel Research Group News
Leonardo Villalón gave an invited lecture, “Between Democracy and Violence: Islam and Politics in West Africa,” at Washington University in St. Louis, March 18, 2015.
Sahel Research Group members Leonardo Villalón, Dan Eizenga and Mamadou Bodian met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, between February 28 – March 5, 2015 for a week-long discussion about the Minerva-funded fieldwork. They also interviewed key actors about the political situation in Burkina Faso, including Sahel Research Group partners Augustine Loada, Abdoul Karim Sango and Issaka Herman Traoré, who are actively involved in the transition.
Dan Eizenga participated in the Rencontre National des Jeunes sur la question de la cohabitation pacifique in N’Djamena, Chad from February 23-25, 2015. The event brought together youth from organizations throughout the country and focused on breaking down barriers between different social groups.
For more news on our activities visit Sahel Research Group News.
Over the past couple of decades the Sahel has been characterized by significant efforts at reform and experimentation with democracy, with some successes. Yet the region still presents some of the most difficult governance challenges in the world, and these have been complicated in recent years by pressures emanating from events in North Africa and by developments in the Sahara. Our goal is to attempt to understand the complex dynamics of these quite understudied countries.
A major focus of the Sahel Research Group has been the effort to understand factors affecting the development of democratic institutions in the region, and particularly electoral systems. The Trans-Saharan Elections Project (TSEP), funded by a the grant from the United States Department of State, made possible a number of exchanges with elections specialists in all six countries of the region. It also allowed us to develop the TSEP website that you will find linked on this page, providing information on the electoral systems and processes of each country.
The development of democratic institutions has been complicated and at times undermined by the destabilizing pressures on the region. With a major three-year grant from the Minerva Initiative, a core effort of the Sahel Research Group is to study the intersection of processes of political reform with socio-religious change in affecting the prospects for stability in the countries of the region. More information on the Minerva research project as well as downloadable working papers can be accessed directly on the project page here.
Other research projects featured here, by both faculty and graduate students, complement these efforts by focusing on social, cultural, linguistic and economic issues in the region. News of recent publications, presentations, and other activities by the research group are available on our Research Group News page. We welcome your feedback and interest, and are happy to correspond with other scholars working on the region.