Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria, Egypt, and South Sudan are the most violent (see Figure 1) and deadliest states (see Figure 2) across Africa, at present.[1]  The levels of violence these different states experience reflect the diversity of the security challenges facing countries across the African continent.

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In 2015, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya were responsible for approximately 23.1%, 11.4%, and 10.8%, respectively, of all organized armed conflict on the continent. This is a continued pattern from 2014, when these states were responsible for approximately 25.5%, 10.2%, and 10.2% of conflict, respectively. In 2015, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan were responsible for most reported conflict-related fatalities – responsible for 30.8%, 11.8%, and 9.2%, respectively. Nigeria has continued topping the list of reported fatalities – in 2014 they were responsible for 29.3% of all reported fatalities. While Somalia and Sudan’s involvement has remained relatively constant between 2014 and 2015, South Sudan saw a decrease in their rate of reported fatalities – South Sudan was responsible for 16.4% of all reported fatalities in 2014; this dropped to 9% of all reported fatalities last year.

The differences in conflict across high activity areas underscore how political violence is closely associated with the capacity of the state and the political relationships found between regimes and political elites. Somalia continues to be host to a civil war in which international and Federal Government troops have made significant territorial gains since late-2011 (see Figure 3). Yet there continue to be challenges in establishing security and rule of law within recaptured cities and towns. Conflict events and reported fatalities tend to be clustered in the southern part of the country.  While Al Shabaab loses control over areas and communities, political elites are competing with militias for local dominance and regime positions. Conflict involving unidentified armed groups (UAGs) also continues to be high.[2] Somalia is responsible for 11.8% of reported conflict-related fatalities (or 4,086 deaths) on the continent last year, making it the country with the second highest number of reported organized armed conflict-related fatalities.

Trend4, Fig3

Sudan continues to face multiple, overlapping and discrete crises within the country (see Figure 4). On-going sources of instability include simmering tensions with South Sudan; a campaign of violence against opposition groups in the south of the country, with increased activity by pro-government militias and the Rapid Support Forces; and increased violence in the Darfur region. The majority of conflict in Sudan (approximately 46% of all organized armed conflict) is comprised of civilian targeting by political militias – especially by pro-government militias (such as the Rapid Support Forces). These attacks occur largely in Darfur – ensuring that Darfur remains by far the subnational region experiencing the most violence in all of Africa (Darfur experienced 723 violent conflict events in 2015, followed next by Banaadir, Somalia, experiencing 467 violent conflict events). Sudan is responsible for over 9% of reported conflict-related fatalities (or 3,190 deaths) on the continent last year, making it the country with the third highest number of organized armed reported conflict-related fatalities.

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Libya saw an increase in remote violence tactics (see Figure 5). Approximately 34% of all organized armed conflict in Libya last year was attributable to remote violence, up from approximately 27% in 2014. Over 320 remote violence events were reported last year, marking the highest number of reports in ACLED records. Conflict can be attributed to state military forces, rebels (e.g. the Libyan Rebel Forces), political militias (e.g. Ansar al-Sharia), and communal militias (e.g. the Misratah communal and the Zintan ethnic militias). Over 7% of all reported organized armed conflict-related fatalities in Africa last year are attributed to Libya.

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Similarly, Nigeria faces multiple challenges to security and stability in the country, which are largely geographically discrete, and is responsible for approximately 10% of all organized armed conflict in Africa last year (see Figure 6). The most high-profile involves the violent Islamist insurgency in the northeast of the country led by Boko Haram, by far the deadliest non-state actor (i.e. responsible for the most reported civilian fatalities) in all of Africa in 2015 (please see the “Violent Conflict Actors Trends” for a discussion of Boko Haram conflict activity). Inter-communal conflict in the country’s middle belt also rages on, led in large part by the Fulani ethnic militia. While Boko Haram is responsible for the most reported civilian fatalities across Africa last year (48.3% of all reported civilian fatalities), they are followed by UAGs in Nigeria (4.9% of all reported civilian fatalities) and the Fulani ethnic militia (4.4% of all reported civilian fatalities) as the deadliest actors targeting civilians in Africa – making Nigeria the most dangerous African country for civilians by far (please see the “Violence Against Civilians Trends” for a discussion of civilian targeting across Africa).Trend4, Fig6

Burundi and Egypt saw the starkest increases in their rates of political violence between 2014 and 2015. There were 52 conflict events reported in Burundi in 2014; this increased five-fold to 260 conflict events last year. This is largely a result of President Nkurunziza’s term limit extension, and its aftermath. Violence by government forces and the Imbonerakure (the youth wing of the ruling party) has resulted in the highest number of conflict-related fatalities reported in over a decade (see Figure 7).[3]

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Political violence in Egypt has been increasing since 2009, with stark increases seen in 2013 and again last year (see Figure 8). In 2013 this spike was a result of increased battles (largely between UAGs and government forces) – while only 53 battles were reported in Egypt in 2012, 279 battles were reported in 2013 – as well as violence against civilians (largely a result of the targeting of civilians by UAGs and government forces) – while 38 instances of violence against civilians and 22 civilian deaths were reported in 2012, 193 instances and 669 civilian fatalities were reported in 2013. In 2015, this spike in conflict activity is largely a result of remote violence. This is a tactic used largely by unidentified armed groups targeting government forces; these tactics are referred to as ‘weapons of the weak’ as they are often used by non-state conflict actors as they become increasingly weak relative to state forces.

Trend4, Fig8


The least violent states in 2015 (when riots and protests are excluded) include Gabon, Botswana, and Equatorial Guinea, all of whom are responsible for 0.01% of reported conflict events on the African continent.

[1] Riots and protests are excluded from the count.

[2] For more on the conflict activity of unidentified armed groups, please see the “Violent Conflict Actors Trends.”

[3] For more information surrounding the Burundi Crisis of 2015, please see ACLED’s local-level coverage of Burundi and the accompanying country-specific dataset, drawing on information from crowdsourcing in addition to usual ACLED coding methods.


Trend 4: Trends in Violence by Country in 2015