Youth Radicalization In Kenya

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 2354 Views 0 Comments

Kenya is an economic heavyweight in East Africa boasting of having the largest economy in this region. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Kenya in 2012 was at $ 33.6 Billion which accounted for about 33% of the entire East African Community (EAC) GDP. This has come under threat since as the internal security of the state is threatened by terrorism and secessionist sentiments from the Coastal region. As a result of this, security is further under fire due to the radicalization of the youth by terror affiliated individuals and cells. The spate of radicalization on the Kenyan youth within some parts of the country is an impediment to peace and security in the country. This is being orchestrated by individuals with a radical mentality which is influencing the youth to adopt a combative approach towards the central government in airing their grievances. Given that these radical approaches are being fanned by some religious leaders, on certain occasions conducted in places of worship, it is increasingly becoming difficult to identify and deal with this worrying trend.

It is in the process of Political Socialization that an individual can be introduced to radicalization. This is a lens through which one develops a unique frame of reference through which an individual is influenced by the political party or religious ideology they are affiliated to. Thus, it depends on who within this affiliation introduces the individual to a world view hence radicalization can emanate from this. The family also has a bearing on radicalization as researchers point out that many children who are raised without parents are susceptible to a negative political socialization which may lead to radicalization, extremism and perhaps terrorism. It is crucial that I mention that radicalization does not necessarily lead to terrorism or extremism, but it does rationalize the use of violence hence creating an environment conducive for perpetrating error.

The Somali militant group Al-Shabaab is further fueling radicalization through allocation of resources and materials that are deemed to have radicalizing paraphernalia. The Al-Shabaab has a covert support network emanating from a section of the Muslim population in the country as well as other youth who have been indoctrinated into radical teachings of Islam. Most of these youth reside in the coastal, Nairobi and North Eastern regions.

Largely capitalizing on the current rift between the Muslim community and the central Government, the group is trying to lure in the youth in joining its ranks or identifying with its modus operandi. This is with the aim of joining their terrorist networks so as to perpetrate terrorist acts against their own state. In the North Eastern Region, mainly in the Counties of Garissa and Wajir, poverty, poor infrastructure, underdevelopment and chronic poverty have driven the youth to identifying with the radicalized position given that they feel marginalized and abandoned.

It is important for the Government to view this crisis not from the anti-terrorism lens alone but from a dialogical aspect through de-radicalization and counter-radicalization avenues. If this is not taken in to account then radical elements occupy the vacuum of mistrust that exist as the common tactics used by most terror groups is manipulation of grievances to gain support from their communities and sympathizers. Therefore, as the high handed clampdown of perceived radical youths and venues for radicalization continues, this will play well in the hands of the extremist elements which will move to sweep in and exploit the gap created by the distrust between the security agents and Muslim community. In addition, the failure of the Government to understand the context of radicalization can mask its ability to articulate a policy framework with sound recommendations that can easily counter this menace. In the Coast Province, the fear by the youth in the Coastal region of losing control of their land has caused discontentment among them. This coming from the backdrop of new investment opportunities equally available to all citizens of Kenya but seen as isolating and marginalizing the Coastal region.
Finally, is vital for all stakeholders within the security sector in the country to address this social threat that is being the fabric of society to its knees. The idea that a Kenyan can be turned against a fellow Kenyan through radicalization conscripted within the state’s borders is worrisome. The civil society needs to engage the public and sensitize them on the consequences of radicalization.

Watson Karuma

Kenya Watson Karuma is an Alumni of The United States International University-Africa (USIU-A), and holds a Bachelors’ Degree in International Relations with a Double Concentration (Major) in Peace & Conflict Studies, and Development Studies. Mr Karuma is currently with the Peace and Security Research Department (PSRD) at International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC).

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