The national strategy to counter violent extremism in Kenya (popular version) is a 4 – 5 hrs read. The average human can focus on a task for about 10-20 minutes according to Wikipedia. If you choose to do it in a day this means it could take you about 6-8 hours with in between breaks to sip your Tamarind juice as you tweet how reading policies can be draining. Frankly, reading anything for that long can be draining for the average human. Notice, how I insist on the average?
The national strategy to counter violent extremism is the national document that guides different stakeholders to counter violent extremism in Kenya. Until September 2016, Kenya was guided by its Constitution and other security related laws in responding to violent extremism and terrorism. The Kenyan army, for instance has been in Somalia fighting radical groups. However, it has been noted that counter terrorism efforts do not address the underlying issues that lead to this problem. For example radicalisation and recruitment which are key in propagating violent extremism and terrorism cannot be tackled by deploying the army.
Violent extremism and terrorism as a whole is a dynamic phenomenon that has evolved from being just a security issue to a social and by a large extent a political one. This is why a multidimensional approach is paramount to ensure that even as we are continuously fighting these radical groups we are working to prevent more people from buying into this absurd ideology that there is no way except the violence way. That we cannot co-exist peacefully unless a life is lost.
This document among other things wishes to engage with ordinary people like me and you in countering violent extremism, coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders in designing and implementing CVE initiatives and complement counter terrorism efforts through addressing radicalisation and recruitment. As I am competing with your limited concentration span, I will go straight into the brief summary of this document
‘The goal of the Government of Kenya in developing this inclusive National strategy to counter violent extremism is rally all sectors of Kenyan social, religious, and economic life to emphatically and continuously reject violent extremist ideologies and aims in order to shrink the pool of individuals whom terrorist groups can radicalise and recruit.’ Pg 14 of NSCVE
The document is divided into five sections as follows:
- The Context Rationale and Aims of the Strategy – this examines the threats brought about by terrorist groups, how our Constitution and freedoms have in one way or another made it difficult to counter terrorism as well as the nine priorities of countering violent extremism as highlighted by the strategy. I will highlight two priorities that is to counter violent extremism messaging and promote patriotism for Kenya’s nationhood. These two priorities have greatly informed the content of this platform. That through the articles, the public and especially the young people online can be educated and inspired to continuously reject extreme ideologies as well as encourage patriotism and active citizenship.
- Radicalisation – the strategy defines radicalisation as a process that ‘exploits the psychological, politico-religious and ideological conditioning of individuals to believe that they are part of a threatened or combative collective identity, in order to socialise them to violent extremism.’ This section also talk about what drives people into violent extremism. Radicalisation could be self or by someone else. Self radicalisation could be as a result of experiences or perceptions of certain aspects of your life. While other people can also exploit these conditions to develop narratives that would make you feel like you are under threat. Naturally, humans would develop coping mechanisms when they suspect or believe they are under threat and these are some of the things that radical groups exploit. The drivers identified here are ideological, global, socio-economic, political, personal and technological. Radicalisation is a gradual process that takes place in different phases; pre-radicalisation, self identification, indoctrination and violent extremism. It is through this process that people are recruited into groups where members subscribe to similar ideologies. Radicalisation can take place in different spaces; religious institutions, online, learning institutions, training camps, prisons and even in neighbourhoods.
- Structuring CVE work – this section provides information as to how countering violent extremism efforts can be crafted. For instance it talks about the nine pillars in which CVE actors can organise their work around depending on interest or industry positioned. These pillars are: media and online, psychosocial, education, legal and policy, arts and culture, training and capacity building,political, faith based and ideological and security pillar. Each pillar works to counter violent extremism within its confines. Platforms such as Beyond the Lines works to fulfill the objectives of this pillar in countering the narratives of violent extremists online or in leveraging technology to address violent extremism. Other issues in this section include;approaches to prevention, national and local action, research on CVE, disengagement and reintegration – that is to deradicalise,disengage members of terrorist groups, rehabilitate and re-integrate them back in communities
- Stakeholder Entry Point for Effective CVE – this is my favourite section of the strategy because it identifies ways in which each stakeholder can counter violent extremism. These roles have been clustered into the national leadership, private sector, civil society;NGOs and CBOs, Kenya Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Bilateral and Multilateral partners,communities, citizens and elected leaders. I cannot emphasise enough on the role of citizens in countering violent extremism. Active citizenship could mean ownership and involvement in local CVE initiatives or even providing information when a recruiter is in your neighbourhood. How I see it is that each one of us is a potential target for recruitment. When attacks happen, we the people bear the brunt of these heinous attacks and it is therefore up to us to work closely with different actors to ensure we leave in peaceful and secure neighbourhoods.
- Measuring CVE Impact – the last section includes details on why it is important to measure and review CVE efforts to ensure that partners are on track with the objectives of the strategy, are up to date with emerging trends in violent extremism. With the instances of terrorist financing through institutions including NGOs, it is important that all efforts to counter violent extremism are reviewed and monitored by the National Counter Terrorist Centre. There are also tools that have been developed to measure CVE efforts with and effort to evaluate, report and provide learning experiences for all actors. Learning is continuous and for every subject, CVE included it is important to enhance impact.
The responsibility to ensure that this strategy is implemented accordingly lies with the National Counter Terrorism Centre. The strategy is not a static document and is subject to review on a need basis to fit in the current context of the security situation of Kenya. Following the launch of the national strategy, the President gave a directive for Counties to develop their own Action Plans that will guide them at the county level to address violent extremism. The Action Plans are supposed to contribute to the objectives and overall goal of the national strategy and as such are guided in principle by it. So far,there are a number of counties that have developed, launched and in the case of Mombasa began implementation of these County Action Plans. Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River, Isiolo, Garissa and Mombasa are leading in example in implementing this directive.
This article is not extensive and only seeks to highlight some of what I feel are important for all of us whether we have been actively involved in CVE efforts or not to understand the Government of Kenya’s soft approaches in countering violent extremism. For more information visit the National Counter Terrorism Centre website to access the full popular document.
If you would like me to do a similar article for the County Action Plans drop your comment and I will be happy to do so.
Disclaimer: This article has been written based on the author’s understanding and interpretation of the document. To ensure that the actual meaning is not lost, some of the phrases have been extracted directly from the national strategy. The featured image is from google images.