by 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
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
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
'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 radicalized youths.
According to police, the mosques were used as recruitment
venue for terror networks.
Omondi regretted that jihadists have spread tentacles in
the urban slums and remote villages where poverty and social
marginalization is rampant.
"Some reports indicate that 'al-Shabaab' and other terror
groups are enticing unemployed youth with a monthly salary
of 600 U.S. 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
programs to reduce crime, terrorism and drug abuse.
Kenya has been an epicenter of youth radicalization 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
He was previously working with a community based organization
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
"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.
"We require a thoughtful operational strategy,
technology, soft skills and an astute political leadership
to defeat terrorism.
"There is need to combine military and nonmilitary
actions to win this war," Ng’ulia remarked in a newspaper
Kenya should invest in sophisticated intelligence gathering
in order to foil terror plots.
Ng’ulia noted that creation of a robust homeland security
agency is urgent to help deal with terrorism and transnational
"Members of the public should be incentivized to
volunteer information on suspicious characters in their
midst. The government can also hire jobless youth to
undertake community policing for a modest fee," Ng’ulia
Kenya must implement affirmative action policies to ensure
under-privileged youth have access to quality education.
The director of National Crime Research Centre, Oriri Onyango,
noted that access to basic services and mentorship programs will
provide a life-line to vulnerable youth.
"Our youth are joining militant groups largely because there
is a vacuum to fill. At this juncture, social programs will
discourage them from embracing radical ideologies," Onyango told
Terrorism 2014: 'Wake-up' call for civic leaders and security chiefs