| Christine Lagat |
NAIROBI (Xinhua) – The Kenyan government should focus on long-term interventions like education, vocational training and income generating activities to cushion youth from joining militant groups responsible for spreading terror.
Security experts told Xinhua in interviews that rampant poverty, social exclusion and peer pressure were driving the youth into the arms of terror master-minds who promise money and a good life.
Global Peace Foundation Executive Director Daniel Omondi said that Kenya should employ soft power rather than brute force to contain radical ideologies that fuel terrorism.
“We require a paradigm shift in order to win the war against terrorism that has engulfed this region. Security organs and their civilian partners must adopt a holistic approach to fight terrorism effectively,” Omondi said.
Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Mali were recently described as terror hotspots by a global consulting agency. The East African nation has experienced a spike in terror attacks from the Somalia based al-Shabaab militants.
Despite assurances from political leaders and security chiefs, ordinary civilians remain a soft target for murderous terrorists.
Al-Shabaab’s reign of terror in Mandera County that claimed 64 lives recently was a confirmation that Kenya must adopt new methods to defeat this menace.
Omondi told Xinhua in an interview in Nairobi that counter-terrorism measures in Kenya have failed to nip the vice in the bud and required a comprehensive review.
“Terrorism is driven by an ideology that cannot be eradicated through military force. Our youth are susceptible to extremism due to unemployment and low self-esteem,” said Omondi.
Kenyan security forces in October raided mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa to flush out radicalised youths.
According to police, the mosques were used as recruitment venue for terror networks.
Omondi regretted that extremists have spread tentacles in the urban slums and remote villages where poverty and social marginalisation is rampant.
“Some reports indicate that al-Shabaab and other terror groups are enticing unemployed youth with a monthly salary of 600 US dollars. This is a wake-up call for policymakers, civilian leaders and security chiefs,” Omondi said.
He urged the government to scale up youth empowerment programmes to reduce crime, terrorism and drug abuse.
Kenya has been an epicenter of youth radicalisation thanks to poverty, absence of social safety nets and weak policing.
The youth advisor at the UN Human Settlements Program (UN- Habitat) Hassan Abdikadir said that terror networks have recruited vulnerable youth to swell their numbers.
“Majority of Kenyan youth lack sustainable revenue streams and terrorists are promising them treasures. It is hard for a jobless youth to resist an offer of 600 dollars per month if they join a militant group,” Abdikadir said.
He was previously working with a community based organisation that engaged youth as agents of peace and community development.
Kenya must adopt innovative strategies to address the root causes of terrorism. Abdikadir proposed community led interventions to contain spread of radical ideologies.
“Citizens have a critical role to play in the fight against terrorism. We need to strengthen community policing and public awareness to ensure terrorists do not have a safe haven in the country,” Abdikadir told Xinhua.
Reliance on conventional military strategies alone will compromise the war against terrorism in Kenya. Trevor Ng’ulia, a security expert, noted that terrorists have exploited divisions within Kenya’s security apparatus, civil and religious tensions to kill and maim innocent civilians.