Kenya Takes Stand Against Violent Extremism

Kenya Takes Stand Against Violent Extremism

Joseph Ole Nkaissery, Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, spoke at the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism on February 19, 2015, in Washington, D.C. His remarks have been edited to fit this format.

Joseph Ole Nkaissery, Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, spoke at the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism on February 19, 2015, in Washington, D.C. His remarks have been edited to fit this format.

Kenya is experiencing a growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism due to a number of factors. One: We share a border of approximately 700 kilometers with Somalia, where al-Shabaab bases are located. The al-Shabaab are luring Kenyan youth and are using these bases in Somalia to recruit, radicalize, train and plan terrorist attacks against Kenya and the region. Two: We are subject to infiltration by extremists, a challenge that is complicated by the realities of our large, indigenous Somali population. 

Three: We have also seen the use of protected spaces to foment violent extremism. Refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to radicalization. Today, Kenya is host to more than 600,000 refugees, a majority of them in camps. Other protected spaces that are being used include education institutions, most prisons and welfare assistance centers. It is therefore critical that this meeting addresses ways to insulate protected spaces from becoming breeding grounds for extremism.

Significantly, we must hold to account institutions and organizations that receive resources for local development and activities but instead use them to promote extremism.

Four: Our vulnerability is also accentuated by our expanded democratic nature, which is exploited and appropriated by perpetrators of violent extremism. We see a growing use of electronic media to recruit, incite and even train candidates for extremism. I hope that there will be some deep reflection on how we can secure our democratic space, aspirations and values that are being threatened by these phenomena.

In response to this threat, Kenya is implementing a number of programs. First, we have a national counterradicalization strategy, which focuses on seven areas, namely the messaging, psycho-social rehabilitation, religion, tolerance, capacity building, political re-education and security aspects.

We also have a joint initiative with civil society and faith-based organizations, as well as development partners, including the United States, the European Union, governments of Denmark and Japan, among others. We seek to invest more in programs that enhance synergy of all actors dealing with violent extremism and the management of foreign terrorist fighters. We also intend to improve our data capture, profiling and our tailor-made programs. In this respect, we welcome any partner and expert who may help us improve our national strategy.

Finally, I wish to restate Kenya’s commitment to continue to play its active role as a frontier state in conquering violent extremism. We welcome the proposal for continued engagement and consultation. In this case, we offer our availability to host a follow-up meeting in the East Africa region.

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