Kenya is a youthful nation, with approximately 65 percent of the population under the age of 35. Frustration with unemployment and lack of education and opportunities for political participation and governance are among the numerous problems that Kenya faces. These challenges pose great threats to the youth and make it more likely that they will be involved with criminal and extremist groups. Kenya is a breeding ground for radicalism and terrorism. Groups involved in such activities are recruiting from among the youth. Being unemployed and uneducated means they can easily be indoctrinated into these groups’ version of “jihad.” They have misinterpreted jihad, which means “to struggle” in the Muslim faith1, and have been successful at increasing the number of young terrorists. Establishing a caliphate is the main goal of their jihad. In 2013, one such group carried out an attack on a mall where 68 people died2, and in 2015, 148 students lost their lives in an attack on a university3.
Community Awareness and Action
On the local level, crime by the youth only results in the community being silent. Members of the community are afraid to report a crime and testify against the perpetrators. At the same time, the people do not trust the police. Conversely, the police do not easily trust the local people because they assume the people are sympathetic with the criminals and thus protect the identity of the criminals. Therefore, a major concern is bridging the gap between the community and the security sector.
KECOCSE works to improve the awareness between the community and the security sector as well as to prevent and counter violent extremism. KECOSCE conducts intensive dialogues and meetings with security actors (National Police Service and Administrative Office) and the local community. KECOSCE helps the community understand the government’s duties and responsibilities, including the role of civilians in protecting the country. Through these meetings and dialogues, those from the security sector were also able to interact more closely with the local community and educate them about peace structures. These processes have helped to reduce the community’s fear of the security sector.
Overall, the program has resulted in fruitful impacts. People’s awareness and actions to protect their area from crime by reporting cases without worries to the security sector has risen successfully. A women’s group created a peace group on Facebook for posting any suspicious activities in their area. That online open group helps police and administration officers to take preventive action in the reported area. These women have bravely taken action and spoken up without consideration of their “lower” social status in society. This has, in turn, contributed to women’s emancipation in the community.
The most important impact on the community has been the change in their perspective and beliefs about peace and security issues. This gives one hope that youth around the world will be more sensitive about the current issues that surround them and take preventive actions with their own local community.
Harriet Ahalo is from Mombasa County, Kenya, East Africa. She has worked at Kenya Community Support Centre(KECOSCE) for almost three years. She primarily deals with the security sector and youth. She participated in the Islamic and Interfaith Peacebuilding Reflection, a collaborative effort of MPI and Mensen met een Missie and in MPI’s 2018 Annual Peacebuilding Training.
1According to the Islamic Supreme Council of America: “In a religious sense, as described by the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (s), ‘jihad’ has many meanings. It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslim or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam.”