What is it about?

We examine how rebel groups - actors without embassies but with a distinct capacity to destabilize - use new media to enhance their communication options. We also interrogate what are their motivations behind such digital engagement. Our focus is on the Sahel region, where multiple rebel groups vying for international attention and support use multiple social media channels, in particular on the MNLA and Ansar Dine in Mali.

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Why is it important?

Rebel groups in the Sahel use social media to advance their public diplomacy goals nimbly and pragmatically. The digital age has fundamentally changed the local and stakeholders such rebel groups can reach. Social media increase the power they are able to carve out for themselves in the international sphere. We claim that distinguishing between rebels and terrorists is analytically important, and also matters for Western policy-making . This article pays special attention to implications for policy-making.


I co-authored this article with Michèle Bos, alumna of the MSc International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD), which has been a great collaboration.

Jan Melissen
Leiden University and University of Antwerp

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This page is a summary of: Rebel diplomacy and digital communication: public diplomacy in the Sahel, International Affairs, October 2019, Oxford University Press (OUP), DOI: 10.1093/ia/iiz195.
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