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'We must encourage intellectual discourse to combat extremism'

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The international community must engage in a fresh intellectual discourse to identify and root out drivers of violent extremism that currently poses a mortal threat to human civilization, a Kenyan scholar said on Sunday.

Peter Kagwanja, the CEO of Nairobi based Pan African Think Tank, Africa Policy Institute said in a commentary published in a local daily that governments must scale up investments in vibrant research to inform policy, legal, political and economic response to violent extremism.

The Africa Policy Institute in conjunction with Kenya’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre and the University of Nairobi on Friday convened a workshop to discuss the new UN strategy to fight violent extremism that was launched by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Policymakers and scholars agreed that a fresh intellectual discourse was an imperative in order to identify the root causes of violent extremism that pose serious threat to peace, stability and development in Kenya.

"There is an urgent need for empirical and policy-relevant research to provide evidence to drive action against violent extremism," Kagwanja said.

The new UN strategy to combat violent extremism has powerful resonance in Africa where the menace has reached crisis levels.

Kagwanja noted that violent extremism has spread tentacles across a large swathe of Africa to the detriment of civil order and economic development.

"In Africa, the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia herald the rise of home grown extremist groups. Violent extremism knows no boundaries," said Kagwanja.

A global dialogue to explore new strategies to defeat violent extremism has been ongoing since last year.

Kagwanja noted the international community is united in its resolve to root out religious extremism that is fuelling terrorism in different parts of the world.

"Ten major conferences have been held in nearly every region across the world to discuss violent extremism. Kenya hosted a regional conference on countering violent extremism in June last year," Kagwanja said.

The launch of the United Nation’s new plan of action to prevent violent extremism came against a backdrop of new terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Somalia last week.

The Islamic State (IS) terror network was behind the attack in a shopping mall in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta while an Al-Qaida franchise staged an attack at a hotel in the Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou where 28 people died.

In Somalia, the Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab blasted their way inside a military camp and killed scores of Kenyan soldiers at dawn on Friday.

Kagwanja stressed that global solidarity was key to explore new approaches to defeat terrorism.

Kagwanja stated that to defeat violent extremism, governments must defend the values that under pins the liberal order including good governance, respect to the rule of law, provision of good education and inclusive development.

"The UN strategy highlights prevention as the cornerstone of an effective response to violent extremism.

"We must address the underlying conditions and grievances that push youth to join extremist groups," Kagwanja said.




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