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What do we know about the evolution of street gangs in Africa? What role do global ideas about ‘gangsterism’ play in shaping the cultures and practices of gangs across varied African urban contexts, and how can communities, authorities, and gang members themselves, better address the challenges of urban insecurity that face many young Africans today?

In the culmination of a British Academy-funded project – ‘Youth Gangs in Urban Africa: A Comparative Study of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Africa’ – this discussion will feature presentations of research that draw upon recently concluded fieldwork in Cape Town, Lagos, and Freetown. Our expert speakers will explain the rationale behind their project and consider how findings hold implications for various aspects of urban insecurity across the African continent, including how research may help inform practical and policy responses. The event will be an opportunity to interact with the researchers, with a dedicated Q&A following presentations.

Katy Thornton, King’s College London


  • Prof Ibrahim Abdullah, Fourah Bay College
  • Dr Guy Lamb, University of Stellenbosch
  • Dr Kieran Mitton, King’s College London
  • Prof Ayodeji Olukoju, University of Lagos

Panellists Profiles

Ibrahim Abdullah is Professor of History at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. He has conducted decades of research on the role and history of youth in Sierra Leone and Africa more broadly, publishing widely on the origins and nature of the Sierra Leonean civil war and more recently, focusing on contemporary street gangs in Africa. He was co-Investigator with Dr Kieran Mitton on a British Academy project exploring street gangs in Sierra Leone and is co-editor of their forthcoming edited volume on African gangs. He has taught in universities in Nigeria, Canada, the US, and South Africa.

Ayodeji Olukoju is Distinguished Professor of history at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He was a DAAD Guest Professor of Economic History at Bayreuth University, Germany from May to August 2022. He has served on the Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (2011-12) and New York-based African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council (2016-2018). Olukoju is a member of the editorial advisory board of Journal of Global History (Cambridge, UK) from 2021 to 2023, and a long-serving member of the advisory board of the University College, London (UCL) Urban Laboratory. He has over 160 scholarly publications include five sole-authored books, covering his research interests in the areas of maritime, transport, economic, social, corporate and urban history of Nigeria.

Dr Guy Lamb currently serves as a Commissioner on the high-level South African National Planning Commission where he chairs the Commission’s Task Team on Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Task Team. Before joining Stellenbosch University Dr Lamb was the Director of Safety and Violence Initiative at the University of Cape Town (UCT) (2012-2020) where he also taught in the Political Studies and Public Law departments. Prior to this he was a Senior Research Fellow and Programme Head at the Institute for Security Studies (2006-2012), and the Programme Manager at the Centre for Conflict Resolution (2000-2005). He has undertaken research and published on arms control, violence reduction, urban safety, policing and peace-building issues in Africa for more than 25 years.

Dr Kieran Mitton is a Reader in Conflict, Security and Development in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, where he is also co-Chair of the Africa Research Group and Director of Research of the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group. He is Principal Investigator of the British Academy-funded ‘Youth Gangs in Urban Africa’ project, for which he conducted fieldwork in Cape Town and Freetown. Since 2016 he has conducted extended fieldwork with gang members in Sierra Leone, South Africa and Brazil. He co-founded the Urban Violence Research Network in 2018.

Katy Thornton is a doctoral candidate at King’s College London, Department of War Studies. Her research is part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Project with the Imperial War Museum. Her thesis explores the influence of contemporary culture on young combatants in West Africa (1989–2003), explored through the archives of ‘trans-media’ journalist Tim Hetherington. Utilising the archives of Tim Hetherington and other conflict photographers, her project explores the hypothesis that the imagery of conflict offers a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of how young combatants drew upon an array of visual cultures, both local and global, to create a performance. Katy’s research is particularly focused upon youth, agency and gender, in the West Africa region.

At this event

Kieran  Mitton

Reader in Conflict, Security and Development

Event details

Dockrill Room (K6.07)
King's Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS