Pathways out of violent extremism

While considerable research has been conducted on how individuals enter VE groups, the disengagement process has not been examined extensively. As a result, the journey out of violent extremism remains poorly understood, particularly in the African context. While the 2017 study took a first step in examining drivers of demobilization, the new research also explores the factors that motivate and incidents that trigger disengagement. It compares the experiences of former recruits who voluntarily surrendered and applied for amnesty with those captured through arrest. Thus, it goes a step further in examining the underlying drivers, incentives and motivations that shape an individual’s decision to leave a VE group, as well as the conditions that enable the disengagement process. Relating this process to political socialization theory and with further insights from role exit theory, the study presents an expanded conceptual framework for understanding the journey out of violent extremism as a dialectical process in which a multitude of experiences, occurrences and perceptions interact. Findings are clustered under these subheadings: drivers of disengagement; the turning point; and the disengagement process.

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