Policy, media and academic attention on violence in the Sahel region has been widespread since the onset of the Arab Spring, and the escalating violence in recent months in Mali. This research explores the nature, patterns and dynamics of this violence in regional and national comparative perspective, contrasting divergent dynamics of violence both within and across the region. Data is drawn from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED), which facilitates analysis of both contemporary and historical patterns. Regional characteristics of Sahelian violence are highlighted, which underscore a relatively low level of violence in the region as a whole, with increases in conflict levels largely driven by the single case of Mali in recent months. Detailed analysis of specific groups and actor types reveal important intra-regional discrepancies which have been largely obscured by characterisations of a regional, trans-national crisis. Together, these observations point to the need to interrogate narratives of regional dynamics which may conceal important national and even sub-national variations and drivers of political violence.