New strategy in war on extremism big leap to ending the menace

KDF officers on a search and rescue mission along Kagir River, Baringo, on May 2, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The global menace that is violent extremism continues to pose a significant threat to security, stability, and development worldwide.

In the wake of devastating terrorist attacks in Kenya, the nation responded with the formulation of a National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NSCVE).

This initial strategy, developed through a thorough and inclusive process, aimed to combat radicalisation and recruitment into extremist groups.

Central to this effort was the strengthened National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), tasked with coordinating government agencies and stakeholders to effectively tackle extremism.

A critical challenge faced during the formulation of the 2016 NSCVE was the definition of extremism. The strategy adopted a definition encompassing both the beliefs and actions of individuals who use violence to further ideological, religious, or political goals.

It emphasized a strategic approach focused on countering extremist ideologies, promoting patriotism, supporting vulnerable communities, implementing early intervention measures, and facilitating the rehabilitation and reintegration of former extremists.

The 2016 NSCVE comprised nine pillars covering various aspects including psychosocial, educational, political, security, faith-based, ideological, training, arts and culture, legal and policy, as well as media and online dimensions.

Subsequently, in 2018, the NCTC initiated internal reviews leading to the development of County Action Plans tailored to address local challenges and provide community-based solutions to radicalisation.

The newly introduced 2024 NSCVE builds upon its predecessor while acknowledging the evolving nature of violent extremism, requiring adaptive and multifaceted approaches. Rooted in the values and principles of the Kenyan Constitution, particularly Articles 1, 189, and 238, the 2024 strategy emphasizes the importance of devolution and an all-of-society approach. It calls for active involvement from government, civil society, security agencies, and academia in its initiatives and programs.

Drawing from key government policies such as the Kenya Foreign Policy and Defence White Paper, the 2024 NSCVE recognises the challenges posed by geopolitical shifts, poverty, inequality, climate crises, technological advancements, proliferation of arms, and political fragility.

It positions itself as an integral component of Kenya’s national security architecture, guided by eight principles including adherence to the rule of law, whole-of-society approach, cooperation, respect for diversity, transparency, do-no-harm, information sharing, and mainstreaming of intersectional issues.

Emphasizing freedom and justice while ensuring national security, the strategy prioritises creating awareness, building resilience among vulnerable communities, capacity-building for local and national actors, inclusivity, and evidence-based decision-making.

The implementation framework of the 2024 NSCVE is robust, with a focus on engaging key stakeholders, devolving implementation to local communities, and establishing various forums for dialogue and collaboration. Resource mobilisation is highlighted as critical, involving contributions from local communities, governments, civil society organisations, international partners, and the private sector.

A comprehensive Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Framework is outlined to ensure the effectiveness and impact of programs and actions.

By delegitimising extremist ideologies and implementing effective policies and actions, the strategy seeks to diminish the influence and support for violent extremism in Kenya.

-Mwakimako is an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Pwani University