Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya after Nairobi, despite being the smallest county among Kenya’s 47 counties in land mass, with a population of over 939,370. The cultural diversity and coastal location of the county make it a primary destination for tourism, but has also made Mombasa vulnerable to violent extremist groups in the past. As a result, the County Government of Mombasa has worked independently and in coordination with the National Government of Kenya, civil society and local communities in Mombasa to address this trend. This multi-stakeholder and collaborative approach has contributed to a decline of violent extremist activities in the past years. Mombasa is a founding member of the Strong Cities Network (SCN) and has been a member of the SCN Steering Committee since its launch in 2015 under the leadership of H.E. Governor Hassan Ali Joho, sharing its lessons learned with other members from across the globe.
Since the 2011 military intervention of Kenyan Defence Forces into Somalia, youth radicalisation and recruitment have become a core security concern of the country. Kenya has been the target of multiple terrorist attacks, with more than 200 cases of violent incidents involving explosives or automatic weapons linked to Al Shabaab between 2011 and 2015. In 2013, gunmen attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people, taking 36 hostages, and injuring 175 people. In 2015, Al-Shabaab launched an attack at Garissa University, killing 148 students and staff.
Al-Shabaab have actively played on identity politics and financial dimensions to recruit individuals from Kenya, where grievances against the central state and police corruption have fuelled their propaganda and recruitment drives. Foreign fighters are another challenge for Kenya: the largest contingent of foreign fighters for Al-Shabaab remains young Kenyans. 
In order to tackle terrorism and violent extremism, the Security Law Amendment Act of 2014 installed the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) as a multi-agency instrument primarily of security agencies built to strengthen coordination in counter terrorism. The act further aimed to strengthen the national security framework. In April 2015, the Kenyan government announced an amnesty for young Kenyans who went to Somalia to train with Al-Shabaab, if returned fighters showed repentance and reported to their county commissioners. This amnesty programme also entailed support for reintegration into society. The National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NSCVE) of 2016 prioritises the importance of engagement with civil society and development of CVE County Action Plans (CAPs). The strategy also tasked government departments to work with their counterparts at the county level on programmes to deradicalise, rehabilitate, providing psycho-social support, and reintegrate returnees willing to abandon violent extremism.
County Action Plans were first launched in the counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Lamu and Kilifi, and after 2017 in Isiolo and Nakuru. Under the supervision of the NCTC, the strategy pools resources from the government, civil society, and the private sector to support counterterrorism efforts, emphasising de-radicalisation rather than military tactics. A key part of the strategy is the training of police to become more sensitive towards minority communities, initiate dialogues on post-traumatic stress, early warnings and early response programmes. Steps were also made in rehabilitation and reintegration: In February 2016, about 1,500 former Al-Shabaab members had surrendered to the authorities, the majority of them originating from Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, and Mombasa. County officials presented to the media a group of returned who received reintegration kits containing materials to start small businesses. In early 2018, 40 returnees to Kilifi county were sent to rehabilitation centre in Mombasa. Further building on the CAPs, all 47 counties are currently in the process of implementing Rapid County Action Plans, re-focussing local efforts on key pillars of the initial CAPs, determined by local needs.
Mombasa County has suffered some of the worst cases of violent extremism in the recent history of Kenya. 25 attacks, the majority conducted by Al-Shabaab or Al-Shabaab sympathisers, have been recorded in the last 20 years, including the 2002 November terror attack on an Israeli-owned hotel. Mombasa is considered a hotspot for terrorism, with numerous high profile arrests and plots uncovered from 2012.
Since the launch of the NSCVE, Mombasa is one of only two counties to have created a dedicated P/CVE position within the Governor’s Office, and launched the Mombasa County Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (MCAP-PCVE) on 16 May 2017 before local, national, and international CVE stakeholders and the NCTC. The MCAP-PCVE emphasises civic knowledge and citizenship education focusing on Mombasa’s strong cultural heritage in order to build resilience against violent extremist ideologies. In addition, the MCAP-PCVE engages in economic development and in addressing gender inequalities, which are two key drivers to violent extremism among young Kenyans. In total, the Action Plan contains eleven pillars with specific strategies, activities and stakeholders:
- Education pillar
- Faith based and ideological pillar
- Economy pillar
- Security pillar
- Arts and culture
- Psychological pillar
- Media and online pillar
- Training and capacity building
- Legal and policy
The understanding of the MCAP-PCVE is that a CVE actor can pick one pillar, a section of a pillar or a number of pillars and implement activities, which collectively contribute to implementation of the MCAP. Each CVE stakeholder should report their progress towards implementing the activities to the County Engagement Forum, which should meet monthly under the joint chairmanship of the County Commissioner and the County Governor, bringing together national, county government, and civil society stakeholders
In November 2018, Mombasa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the City of Kristiansand, a Strong Cities Network member, to share P/CVE practices and policies. This MoU was preceded by a city exchange in March 2018 and November 2018, and will be followed up with a youth exchange between the two cities in early 2019
County Government officials received P/CVE training and awareness raising activities through the SCN Local Innovation Grant. Mombasa introduced an international youth day to address issues of crime, violent extremism and radicalisation. Working with Strong Cities Network and Young Cities, Mombasa hosted a three-day Youth Innovation Lab in November 2018. 32 young people from across Mombasa County attended to create innovative online and offline campaigns promoting tolerance and countering violence, hate speech and exclusion in their local communities. Participants tailored the campaigns to the issues in their sub-counties, including juvenile gang recruitment and violence, police-youth relations, and the lack of civic education. Various youth groups and centres in Mombasa work to address issues faced by young people.
Mombasa is also home to the Interfaith Council of Clerics, which supports inter-religious dialogue between different faith communities. The organisation committed to building bridges between those communities, aiming at fostering an atmosphere of understanding and respect in Mombasa and Kenya.