Stories of Survivors: a UNDP photo exhibition in Brussels



These photographs and stories were documented in 2016 across six African countries that have been directly affected by violent extremism – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda. It is hoped that this initiative will raise awareness on the human cost of violent extremism across the African continent and thereby drive and inspire continued efforts to prevent it.

The growth of violent extremism – and the devastating impact of groups espousing violent ideologies – is not only setting in motion a dramatic reversal of development gains in Africa, but is also threatening to stunt prospects of development for years to come. This perspective is unequivocally articulated in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (2015), which states: Violent extremism undermines our collective efforts towards maintaining peace and security, fostering sustainable development, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and taking humanitarian action.

UNDP report: Journey to Extremism in Africa  |  Project website: Stories of Survivors   |  Press release

Photography Malin Fezehai and Ahmed Farah  |  Text Jessica Benko and Ahmed Farah


Indoor Exhibition:
Press Club Brussels Europe

23 October 11:00 – 12:30
Rue Froissart 95
1000 Brussels

Outdoor Exhibition:
Place de l’Albertine

23 October to 5 November
Place de l’Albertine
1000 Brussels

Côte d’Ivoire

On 13 March 2016, 22 people were killed and another 33 were injured when three gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs opened fire on the beach of Grand Bassam where families and groups of friends were enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon. This day would forever change their lives. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack at Grand Bassam shows the impact of violent extremism in places where no one would have expected an attack and reconfirms the transnational nature of the threat.


Boko Haram has been active for over a decade and is based in northern Nigeria. In recent years, they have increasingly focused their deadly attacks on remote villages throughout northern Nigeria, and in bordering communities in Cameroon and Chad. More than 1.7 million people have been displaced in Nigeria alone because of Boko Haram’s activities and, in many cases, survivors’ homes and businesses were burned behind them as they fled. Tens of thousands have been murdered and thousands more kidnapped, including the 276 Chibok schoolgirls taken from their school in 2014. Most of the displaced were farmers, who have few opportunities to make enough money to support their families without access to their land. Many of the displaced have sought shelter in urban centers such as Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.


2010 Kampala Bombings
On 11 July 2010, attackers detonated bombs at two sites in Kampala, Uganda. Fifteen people died at the Ethiopian Village restaurant. Another 64 were killed in two blasts at the Kyadondo Rugby Club, where football fans had gathered to watch the final match of the FIFA World Cup. The first bomber detonated in the middle of the audience, and the second shortly after, near the exit as people streamed out. More than 70 people were injured but survived. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks.


Nearly 200,000 people have been displaced in the far northern region of Cameroon, almost exclusively due to attacks by Boko Haram on their villages. They gather in improvised settlements or in host communities, such as in the towns of Moskota and Mora, because their home villages and farm fields are still vulnerable to attacks. The region also hosts 60,000 registered refugees at Minawao camp and another 27,000 unregistered refugees who have fled violence along the Nigerian border.

Internal displacement often feeds into and exacerbates pre-existing conflicts and the dynamics of displacement amongst pastoralists – not least since Boko Haram implements a strategy of stealing livestock and burning farmlands in rural communities. Amid increasing levels of insecurity Cameroon has previously closed its border with Nigeria and shut down markets in the border areas, hitting hardest those whose livelihoods depend on cross-border informal trade.

Even before incursions by violent extremists, the Far North region of Cameroon was already the country’s poorest region, with nearly 75 percent of the population living below the poverty line.


Following two decades of civil war, the collapse of the Central Government of Somalia in 1991 led to the destruction of institutional systems and infrastructure, leaving a vacuum which violent extremist groups could exploit. Al-Shabaab has built a highly effective clandestine support network in the east African region, which it uses to recruit youth and enact deadly attacks. While most recruits are from Somalia and Kenya, significant elements of foreign fighters are recruited from outside the region, indicating the relatively broad level of appeal of such groups. Although the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has forced Al-Shabaab out of many of its urban strongholds, the group remains active. Thousands of people have been killed or injured, including in the capital, Mogadishu.

Burkina Faso

Addressing violent extremism within national borders sometimes results in the displacement of people and the spread of violence into neighbouring regions and countries. Battles among government forces, insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have driven tens of thousands of Malians from their homes, many fleeing across borders into Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. The high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in the region has had a destabilizing effect, exacerbating the vulnerability of already fleeing populations, and that of ‘host’ communities who have received them. Refugee camps and populations on-the-move have become easy targets for radicalized groups.

Hotel attack in Ouagadougou
On 15 January 2016, 30 people were killed in the capital Ouagadougou when heavily armed gunmen attacked the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel across the street, in a siege that lasted until the following morning when military forces liberated the hotel. Among the 176 hostages eventually released, 56 were injured. AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack.

UNDP_Logo-Blue w Tagline-ENG

UNDP works in some 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results.




About Author

Leave A Reply