, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 17 – The government has warned of escalating extremism among Kenyan youths who are keen to join terrorist groups like Al Shabaab.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku says the government will expand community engagement and development programs to empower local communities as part of the measures to contain the situation.
“High prevalence of poverty in some Muslim dominated areas especially in parts of North Eastern, Eastern and Coast Provinces provide a fertile environment for extremist elements to lure young people into radicalism with promises of a better life,” he acknowledged.
“The presence of extremist elements and groups in the country; Al Qaeda and its affiliates are actively seeking to recruit Kenyans to travel to Somalia to fight for Al Shabaab and to carry out attacks in the country,” he warned.
More than 30 Kenyan youths have been arrested in Mombasa and Northern Kenya in the past month while trying to cross into Somalia to join the terror group, raising fears of an ongoing recruitment exercise.
Aware of the imminent security threat from the trend, he said that they will adopt a swift way of addressing grievances that could encourage receptiveness to violent extremism.
Addressing the National Conference on Security and Countering Violent Extremism in Kenya on Thursday, Lenku allayed fears of linking certain groups to terrorism even as the government sharpens it security policies.
“This conference was conceived as one of the measures to help tame increasing extremism that appear to be growing rapidly in Kenya leading to terrorism attacks and posing a threat to national security,” he said.
He assured that the government will deal with individuals and not members of any religion while dealing with terrorism.
The conference was organised by the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) under the theme of Advancing Shared Responsibility towards a Peaceful Society.
In order to totally deal with the challenge, the Cabinet Secretary said the security docket will also work towards enhancing better understanding of Islam to rebut extremists’ myths and half-truths.
If the war was to be successful, he said that religious leaders were crucial.
“I also want to call upon the leadership of SUPKEM to continue working closely with the Government in the fight against violent extremism, which continues to negatively affect the country’s economic growth and the well-being of our people,” he stated.
The feeling of exclusion among a section of Muslims youths has been a major cause for them joining terror groups but Lenku termed the notion as a mere “perception.”
“The perception of exclusion among a section of the Muslim community, especially the youth, which makes them prone to radical opinions that push them to engage in violent extremism,” he lamented.
He however noted that the perception of exclusion “may be as a result of poor integration in society.”