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$4.2M USAID Grant Supports Researcher Tackling Terror Threat in Northern Ghana

By Rachael Grahame ’17

While global patterns of terrorist attacks show a decline since 2016, such violence has been on the rise in parts of West Africa, said John McCauley, an associate professor in the University of Maryland Department of Government and Politics: “Terrorism is anything but getting better in this particular part of the world.”

Now, supported by a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, McCauley is leading UMD’s Center for International Development and Conflict Management in efforts to help the many ethnic, religious and other groups living in northern Ghana find common ground. The goal, in turn, is for them to make common cause to keep terrorist groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Jama'at Nusratul Islam wal Muslimin and Boko Haram out of the area.

Though northern Ghana has enjoyed relative peace and stability, competition between farmers and herders over land and water resources, between mining groups over mine access, and other such conflicts has created tension—and opportunities for terrorist group involvement.

To strengthen the relationships between these groups, McCauley will convene leaders from various organizations for community values workshops, 25-30 community members for simulation-based dialogues, and youths from different backgrounds for civic education, engagement and athletics activities.

McCauley brings years of expertise to the new, five-year project. Before graduate school, he spent time in the area through the Peace Corps, and in 2018, led a team helping to improve police-community relations in Benin through a grant awarded to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), where McCauley is a research affiliate.

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