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[Dehai-WN] Crisisgroup.org: Kenyan Somali Islamist Radicalisation

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 23:26:11 +0100

Kenyan Somali Islamist Radicalisation

Africa Briefing N°85 25 Jan 2012

%20Kenyan%20Somali%20Islamist%20Radicalisation.pdf> Full PDF report


Somalia’s growing Islamist radicalism is spilling over into Kenya. The
militant Al-Shabaab movement has built a cross-border presence and a
clandestine support network among Muslim populations in the north east and
Nairobi and on the coast, and is trying to radicalise and recruit youth from
these communities, often capitalising on long-standing grievances against
the central state. This problem could grow more severe with the October 2011
decision by the Kenyan government to intervene directly in Somalia.
Radicalisation is a grave threat to Kenya’s security and stability.
Formulating and executing sound counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation
policies before it is too late must be a priority. It would be a profound
mistake, however, to view the challenge solely through a counter-terrorism

Kenya’s North Eastern Province emerged as a distinct administrative entity
dominated by ethnic Somalis after independence. It is, by most accounts, the
worst victim of unequal development. A history of insurgency, misrule and
repression, chronic poverty, massive youth unemployment, high population
growth, insecurity, poor infrastructure and lack of basic services, have
combined to produce some of the country’s bleakest socio-economic and
political conditions.

Two decades of conflict in neighbouring Somalia have also had a largely
negative effect on the province and Kenyan Somalis. The long and porous
border is impossible to police effectively. Small arms flow across
unchecked, creating a cycle of demand that fuels armed criminality and
encourages clans to rearm. Somali clan-identity politics, animosities and
jingoism frequently spill over into the province, poisoning its politics,
undermining cohesion and triggering bloody clashes. The massive stream of
refugees into overflowing camps creates an additional strain on locals and
the country. Many are now also moving to major urban centres, competing with
other Kenyans for jobs and business opportunities triggering a strong
official and public backlash against Somalis, both from Somalia and Kenya.

At the same time, ethnic Somalis have become a politically significant
minority. Reflecting their growing clout, Somali professionals are
increasingly appointed to impor­tant government positions. The coalition
government has created a ministry to spearhead development in the region. A
modest affirmative action policy is opening opportunities in higher
education and state employment. To most Somalis this is improvement, if
halting, over past neglect. But the deployment of troops to Somalia may
jeopardise much of this modest progress. Al-Shabaab or sympathisers have
launched small but deadly attacks against government and civilian targets in
the province; there is credible fear a larger terror attack may be tried
elsewhere to undermine Kenyan resolve and trigger a security crackdown that
could drive more Somalis, and perhaps other Muslims, into the movement’s
arms. Accordingly, the government should:

* recognise that a blanket or draconian crackdown on Kenyan Somalis,
or Kenyan Muslims in general, would radicalise more individuals and add to
the threat of domestic terrorism. The security forces have increased ethnic
profiling but otherwise appear relatively restrained – especially given past
behaviour; still, counter-terrorism operations need to be carefully
implemented and monitored, also by neutral observers;
* develop effective, long-term counter-radicalisation and
de-radicalisation strategies. A link exists between radicalisation and
terrorism, but counter-terrorism tactics aimed only at stopping Al-Shabaab
and other militant groups should not become the only official response.
Counter-radicalisation – reducing the appeal of radicalism – and
de-radicalisation – persuading people who are already in radical
organisations to leave them – are long-term processes that require tact and
* allocate, along with donors, additional state and development
resources to North Eastern Province and elsewhere to rectify decades of
neglect and end some of the social problems that drive radicalisation;
* study madrasas, perhaps through a local university, to learn which
are most radical and influential, both to better understand the problem of
their radicalisation and to moderate extremist teachings; create a Muslim
Advisory Council of respected leaders, open to hardliners, but representing
all Kenyan Muslims, that is responsive to the community’s concerns and
aspirations, able to articulate its message to those in power and competent
in formulating the reform measures needed to improve its well-being; and
* develop a process, with community input, for selection of a Grand
Mufti: Kenya, unlike many African countries, has no supreme Muslim spiritual
leader whose primary function is to provide spiritual guidance, and when
necessary, make binding pronouncements on vexed issues by issuing edicts
(fatwa). It would be difficult, of course, to find a unifying figure, given
the sectarian and regional tensions, but it should be feasible.

Because of the policy immediacy relating to Kenya’s intervention in Somalia,
this briefing focuses on Kenyan Somali radicalisation. The growth of Islamic
extremism among Kenyan and Tanzanian Muslims on the coast will be the
subject of a future study. The recommendations, nonetheless, apply to all of

Nairobi/Brussels, 25 January 2012



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