Preventing violent extremism in Kenya: policy options

Preventing violent extremism in Kenya: policy options

For a long time, the Kenyan government, and security agencies in particular, relied on security-focused measures to address violent extremism. Some of these measures have resulted in serious violations of the individual rights and liberties of people, and the profiling of Somalis and Muslims on ethnic and religious lines. Given that extremist violence is underpinned by an ideology of marginalization and victimization that is shared by some Muslim youth in the coastal and northern regions of Kenya, these harsh measures likely push more and more young men towards extremism.

This focus on counterterrorism interventions has tended to dominate policy considerations and government action on terrorism and radicalization, often to the exclusion of preventive considerations. Counterterrorism efforts are of course critical in dealing with extremist violence when it arises. However, in the absence of a robust, coherent, high-level strategy to counter and prevent violent extremism, the danger is that only the security aspects will be attended to and will continue to define the full scope of policy interventions in dealing with terrorism.

There are also challenges such as weak inter-agency coordination, policy fragmentation, resource constraints and weak public communication that continue to limit the effectiveness of the Kenya government’s efforts to address terrorism and radicalization.

This brief discusses some of the drivers of violent extremism in Kenya, and the available policy opportunities that Kenyan and regional policymakers should consider to effectively address the problem.

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