County Actions Plans in Kenya – Progress and Next Steps

In part as a response to major terrorist attacks, including at the Westgate Mall and Garissa University, Kenya has committed considerable resources to P/CVE. In the 2016 National Strategy to Combat Violent Extremism, the Kenyan Government mandated counties to develop County Action Plans (CAPs) to support national CVE efforts at the local level. From 26 June to 4 July 2019 the SCN team ran consultation exercises with three counties in Kenya: Nakuru, Isiolo and Lamu to see how they are faring with their mandate and identify where the SCN can support.

Typically, most P/CVE resources have been allocated to coastal regions, with Lamu, Kwale and Mombasa as the first counties to launch CAPs. As the terrorist threat evolves, the SCN sought to assess progress made towards the development and implementation of the CAPs inland as well, travelling to Nakuru and Isiolo in addition to Lamu.

All three counties find themselves at different stages: Lamu launched a CAP in March 2017, Isiolo in September 2018 and Nakuru launched a Rapid County Action Plan (RCAP) in July 2019. Competing priorities at the county government level and the lack of resources on the civil society side however, have prevented effective implementation of these documents. Nevertheless, local stakeholders continue to identify an active threat from extremist groups such as Al Shabaab and ISIS. P/CVE therefore remains high on the agenda, with old grievances stemming from, among others, marginalisation and poverty, ethnic tensions and political violence, and widespread corruption, coupled with more recent phenomena such as the negative effects from urbanisation.

SCN city/‘county’ consultations are intended to inform a grounded understanding of local needs and capabilities with regard to preventing radicalisation and recruitment. The consultation is a critical step for the SCN to identify ways to support the implementation of the CAPs in P/CVE across Kenya.

Furthermore, consultations help county officials to identify what existing community assets they can leverage, it allows a shared understanding of risks and needs for local prevention actors, and lastly create an opportunity to compare a county’s context to local, regional and international SCN members to identify areas for cooperation and knowledge exchange. This is the fourth formal consultation the SCN has run following successful activities in Pakistan, the Western Balkans and Bangladesh.

Over the coming year, the SCN will continue to support Kenyan counties, complementing past support to the development of the Mombasa CAP through a grant to HAKI Africa in 2017, and current engagement with Mombasa and Kwale through our flagship Young Cities, youth – city cooperation programme. The SCN will also seek to continue to facilitate the sharing of good practice across Kenya, the region and globally.

The SCN would like to thank all partners involved in organising this consultation. Read below to find out more about our itinerary!

Nakuru County

Nakuru County is situated in the south eastern part of the former Rift Valley province, approximately three hours away from Nairobi. It is the fourth largest county in Kenya with a population of over 2 million according to County Government estimates. Administratively, it is divided into 11 sub-counties and 55 wards. While the county is not identified as a violent extremism hotspot in Kenya, Nakuru has taken more of a preventative approach and launched a RCAP in July 2019. The SCN team met with key local stakeholders involved in the drafting of the document shortly before its launch.

Ms. Rehema Zaid, Programs Coordinator at Integrated Initiatives for Community Empowerment (IICEP), supported ISD in organising the SCN’s visit to Nakuru in coordination with Youth Bila Noma, in particular Ms. Rukkiya Ahmed. The team met with Ms. Tumme Abduba, Chief Officer Gender, Culture and Social Services and her office, as well as with County Commissioner Erastus Mbui, to gain a better understanding of the County Government’s and the Commissioner’s office roles in the development and implementation of the RCAP. The SCN team also met with civil society representatives. In addition to MIDRIFT, who is part of the Secretariat of the RCAP, the SCN had the chance to take part in a roundtable organised by Youth Bila Noma especially for this occasion. Youth Bila Noma is a consortium of local civil society organisations (CSOs) that works to deliver youth-led solutions to P/CVE. The team not only could learn more about the organisation’s past work and future plans during the roundtable, they also had the privilege of hearing from Members of the County Assembly and local experts such as Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Egerton University, on local P/CVE challenges such as rapid urbanisation, youth unemployment and tense police-community relations.

Isiolo County

Also situated in the former Rift Valley province, Isiolo is in the middle of Kenya, approximately five hours away north west of Nairobi. The county has a population of 190,000 spread across three sub-counties and ten wards. The low population should not be taken as an indicator of the county’s size however, as Isiolo covers 25,336 km2, over three times Nakuru’s surface. The county’s geography makes it a strategic and connecting hub for people travelling to Sudan and Somalia, thus increasing Isiolo’s vulnerability to various forms of trafficking as well as violent extremism. To respond to this threat, county leaders and a very strong civil society joined efforts to launch a CAP in September 2018.

In Isiolo, the team had the privilege to be assisted by Kenya NiWajibu Wetu (NIWETU) and Isiolo Peace Link, the two leading local CSOs in the P/CVE field. Mr. Ibrahim Shabo organised meetings with County Commissioner John Ondego and his security officers, and County Governor Hon. Dr Mohammed A. Kuti and his office. The SCN team also had the unique opportunity to sit in a County CVE Forum meeting organised by Ms. Abdia Mohamud, Executive Director of Isiolo Peace Link. The CVE Forum gathers civil society representatives involved in the development and implementation of the CAP, representing among others youth, traditional and faith leaders, women, local media. In addition to receiving a presentation on the status of the implementation of the CAP, this was also an opportunity to hear what challenges the Forum faces. The main issues are written into the CAP as three additional pillars: access to justice (responding to the historic marginalisation of the Isiolo population), women (ensuring women are more involved in CVE efforts, and in decision-making processes, including traditional ones, more broadly), and County-National Government relations.  At the end of the stay, the SCN team took part in an extraordinary ceremony organised by the hosts, in which they planted a peace tree in traditional Borana clothing.

Lamu County

Lamu County comprises the mainland and an archipelago of 65 islands situated on the northern coastline of Kenya, bordering Somalia. The county is divided into two sub-counties and ten wards, and had a population of 101,539 in the last census in 2009. Given its proximity to Somalia, Lamu County is a passageway for foreign fighters seeking to join Al Shabab. Having identified their vulnerability, Lamu was the second county in Kenya to launch a CAP in March 2017.

The SCN team’s visit sought to understand the progress made on the CAP implementation, as well as identifying major stakeholders and their challenges. The team met with County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri, and Deputy Governor Hon. Abdulhakim Aboud Bwana and County Executive Committee Member for Youth Mr. Paul Kamau. With the support of Mathenge Ndung’u, Programme Manager at Kiunga Youth Bunge Initiative, ISD also organised a roundtable with CSOs working in relevant areas for P/CVE. Despite having launched the CAP over two years ago, implementation has been slow partly due to changes in the county’s leadership and civil society’s lack of funding. Moreover, military operations throughout the county have created a climate of insecurity among communities, resulting in trust issues that make cooperation between local stakeholders very difficult. Lamu County will therefore need to re-establish those community relations and stronger cooperation between major key players in order to rebuild the county’s social fabric and a conducive climate to counter violent extremism.

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