Radicalisation and terrorist recruitment in Kenya

Al-Shabaab and ISIS are increasingly recruiting Kenya’s youth to terrorism. Young slum dwellers in cities without opportunities of finding a job or get an education are easy prey. According to NAI researcher Sirkku Hellsten, government policies of social development must specifically provide education and employment opportunities to the urban youth. Also the fight against corruption needs to be taken more seriously.

Refugee camps have traditionally been recruiting pools for terrorists. Now recruitment is much more widespread, and it’s not only young Somalis – or Muslims in general - in Kenya that are talked into extremism.

“Regardless of religion or ethnicity, boys and young men living in the slums are approached by al-Shabaab or ISIS recruiters. However, not only poor young people get involved in terrorism as we saw recently in the Garissa attack last year where some of the terrorists were university students”, Hellsten remarks.

In new NAI policy note, Hellsten also points out that corruption in Kenyan security agencies and other state organs is an obstacle to combating terrorism.
So far, the Kenyan government’s response to terrorist activities has been reactive and militaristic rather than constructively preventive.  However, beefing-up only the security measures has its problems.

“If innocent citizens get hurt – or feel targeted - it will lead to even more radicalisation. Human rights organisations in Kenya already accuse the government of random arrests, torture and killings of young Muslim men in the northern and coastal parts of the country. On the other hand, security forces accuse NGO’s of protecting terrorists. It is important to find balance between security and protecting citizens’ rights”, Hellsten adds.

Read the policy note here.

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