Why most youth get radicalized in terrorism, expert explains

Journalists carry an injured person at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi on January 15, 2019.[File, Standard]

Dr. Hassan Khannenje, Director of Horn International Institute says money is not the only reason behind radicalisation and terrorist recruitment among Kenya's youth.

In an interview with Spice FM’s situation room, Dr. Khannenje emphasized that the yearning for belonging and significance plays a crucial role in this issue.

He also asserted that terrorist groups exploit these needs by offering what seem like solutions to the problems these young individuals face.

“Government or parents sometimes you're going to be at pains to explain to your child why they are in such a predicament but terror groups have answers and a clear solution”

Contrary to common misconceptions, Dr. Khannenje pointed out that the primary motivator for young people to join terror groups is not solely money but rather a vulnerability. He stressed that assuming financial gain as the sole factor oversimplifies the situation. 

He noted, poverty while a contributing factor, is not the only predisposing element adding that even individuals from well-off families can be drawn to these groups.

“If one person comes from a wealthy family but is surrounded by circumstances that speak to their heart then they are still going to go because they also have the means to actually be able to transport themselves across the border”. He adds.

Addressing the role of media and public awareness, Dr. Khannenje, cautioned against publicizing terrorism-related information.

He explained that publicity fuels the terrorist’s sense of importance and relevance, ultimately inspiring their actions.

He urged both the Kenyan media and citizens to exercise restraint in sharing any information related to terrorism, emphasizing the need to deny the terrorists the platform they seek.

“One of the things we need to train ourselves since every citizen has a phone and can able o post anything is to deny them that space because that is what they are seeking”.  He explained.

Dr. Khannenje encouraged a collective effort to practice self-censorship and discourage the spread of such content.

“You have to starve them of this particular joy and somehow learn the act of self-censoring” He adds.

In the context of Kenya’s volatile region, Dr. Khannenje underscored the responsibility of citizens in combating terrorism. He emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and promptly reporting any suspicious activities urging everyone to play an active role in the fight against terrorism by adopting the principle of “see something, say something”.

As August 7, 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic 1998 US Embassy bombing, Dr. Khannenje’s words take on added significance. The day serves as a solemn occasion for reflection, honoring the victims and survivors of the devastating attack that claimed over 200 lives and left 5000 others injured.