At least 350 young people who joined the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab surrendered this year, according to Kenyan police, and will be reintegrated into society.
In Kenya’s coast region, security services believe fewer young people are travelling into Somalia to fight for the organization, indicating that counterterrorism measures are working.
Kenyan counterterrorism experts are in Mombasa County this week to help educate residents about violent extremism and support former al-Shabab fighters.
Their efforts are aimed at six counties along the Kenya-Somalia border that are directly impacted by the terror group’s activity.
Canon Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Center is vetting more than 300 former al-Shabab fighters trying to re-enter society, according to Harun Rashid, the center’s lead officer in charge of combating violent extremism.
Understanding the crime
Rashid explained, “It’s not just a blanket return program.” “There is a process of sifting these youths and recognizing the type of crime they have committed, and the legal system is also waiting to see prosecutable areas once these returnees are placed in such a program,” he says. Then there’s the deradicalization and sensitization aspects of it.”
The militant group has been using local and historical grievances to recruit Kenyan youth to join its violent actions for more than a decade.
Although a small number of Kenyan youths continue to fight alongside al-Shabab in Somalia, enhanced security operations and awareness programs in Somalia and Kenya’s northeast and coastal areas have curtailed youth recruitment.
According to Rashid, counterterrorism programs are increasingly focusing on security officials who are involved in battling terrorism so that they may better comprehend the radicalization process.
Security officials must “understand the radical drivers and the legitimacy behind the radicals calling for their agenda,” according to Rashid.
In order to encourage more Kenyan youths to reject terrorism, the counterterrorism center campaign wants to expand and target 12 counties in total.