Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in East Africa

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By: Wanjala Danson


Members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are retooling its counter-terrorism measures against a backdrop of grave threats from Somalia-based militant group, ‘al-Shabaab’.

This was established during IGAD Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the Development of the East Africa Region, Preventing and Countering Extremism Strategy in Nairobi.

The Member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), together with Tanzania resolved to have a joint regional anti-terror strategy in by the end of September.

According to Ambassador Mahboub Maalim the IGAD Executive Secretary, the regional strategy for preventing and countering violent extremism is required because terror is increasing fast both regional and global.

The IGAD Executive Secretary says as a result, national mechanisms are not enough to prevent terror attacks but a regional cooperation will assist in eliminating the threat.

Ambassador Maalim said one of the reasons for the joint strategy is the porous nature of borders in the Horn of Africa region which has become a breeding ground for violent extremists.

“We have seen terror networks expand their operations by exploiting the insecurity in the region,” he said, adding that it is not enough to defeat terror elements through a militarized approach that has characterized most counter-terrorism efforts.

IGAD is calling on regional, civil society groups and private sector to share the responsibility in countering violent extremism in Eastern and Horn of Africa region.

Ndung’u Wainaina of the International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), said there is the need for cooperation at all levels, between national local authorities and local communities to curb extremism and radicalization.

“As non-state actors, we all need shared strategy and role. We observe that there is no single path to extremism and radicalization. Extremists and radicals are from a diverse demographic and social status,” he said.

On the other hand, security experts say the governments should re-evaluates the current anti-terror strategies war against terrorists who have disrupted regional security architecture in order to win the war, adding that ‘Al-Shabaab’ and other local militias pose a serious threat to region’s stability, economic growth and social cohesion.

The three day countering extremism conference was meant to provide a framework for enhancing security dialogue and reviewing security appropriate measures in addressing radicalization and extremism in East Africa. The meeting brings together security ministers, intelligence and counter terrorism experts from Africa and across the world to discuss strategies for countering violent extremism, which has become a global problem.

Members’ main aim is to sustain a robust conversation on how to respond to an enemy and unite in the war.

According to Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry Foreign Affairs Ambassador Monica Juma said the anti-terror strategies require better understanding of the changing dynamics.

She added that national anti-terror strategies must help enhance cooperation and coordination across several strategic levels within countries and regions.

“Foreign fighters from far afield, for example from Europe, are in the field here and the Horn of Africa and if they escape the security forces, they will return to their countries of origin to pursue what they have brutally sought here,” stated Juma.

Kenya’s Cabinet secretary Joseph Nkaissery of the Ministry of Interior stated that radical groups have penetrated protected spaces like refugee camps, mosques and learning institutions to propagate violent extremism.

“The geographical, social and demographic factors have worsened Kenya’s vulnerability to terrorism,” says Nkaissery.

He urged the international community to strengthen efforts to pacify Somalia in order to stem the flow of Al-Shabaab militants into the Kenyan territory.

“Strategic partnerships are very crucial to win the fight against terrorism. The UN attaches great value to peace and security in the east and horn of Africa region where the threat of terrorism is real,” Sahle-Work Zewde the director General at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi.

Zewde added that UN aims at establishing resilient and tolerant communities to deny merchants of death any foothold, and that regional cooperation, development of social amenities and good governance will boost the war against terrorism.

Kenya had pledged to convene a regional conference on countering violent extremism as the country is a frontline state on the global war against terrorism.

IGAD member states include Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti.





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