Mandera County Chief Officer for Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism, Mr. Mohamed Adan Osman (left), in discussion with Mr. Saleh Maalim Alio (right) of Mandera Municipality Board member at the SCN Isiolo Inter-County Exchange Conference, 20-22 November 2019.
In order to understand the many and varied challenges and realities facing P/CVE efforts across Kenya, we spoke to three practitioners working in three different regions of the country and asked for their views on the biggest challenges facing the P/CVE space, the most successful P/CVE project, and why membership of the Strong Cities Network (SCN) is important.
If you would like to offer your own contribution and share your perspectives on the challenges and recommendations in P/CVE, please email [email protected].
Abdia Mohamud HSC, Executive Director, Isiolo Peace Link, Isiolo County
Abdia Mohamud is a practitioner with 15 years’ experience in the fields of conflict transformation and peace building in Northern Kenya and is the Executive Director of Isiolo Peace Link. She has also worked with the Pastoralists’ Communication Initiative under UNOCHA as Cross-Border Liaison Officer in charge of peace initiatives between Kenya and Ethiopia. In 2012, she was honoured with Head of State Commendation (HSC) in 2012 by his Excellency (retired) president of Kenya Honourable Mwai Kibaki. She was also honoured by National Peace Building and Conflict Management Directorate through Amani Awards of 2010. In 2013 she was recognised as Isiolo County Shujaa of peace.
Saleh Alio, Member of Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism Committee, Mandera County
Saleh Maalim Alio is a policymaker on the Mandera Municipality Board and a Consultant on Peace, Conflict Resolution, Urban Governance, Leadership and Security. He holds an MSc in Governance, Peace and Security Management from the African Nazarene University in Nairobi, Kenya. Saleh is an active community development and social justice advocate with strong involvement in matters of radicalization, prevention and countering violent extremism in the Northern Frontier Counties and the Mandera Triangle.
Rukkiya Ahmed, Programmes Manager, Youth Bila Noma, Nakuru County
Rukkiya Ahmed formed Youth Bila Noma (Youth Without Violence) in October 2019 as a capacity-building initiative for youth in Nakuru County to offer alternative pathways out of violence and use them to strengthen their communities against extremism. She is a lifetime member of Kenya Red Cross Society and has more than 20 years’ experience as an aid worker and project manager in Oman, Uganda and her native Kenya. She has recently been working closely with the County Government of Nakuru under the Department of Gender, Culture and Social Services as the personal assistant to the Chief Officer, and has worked on implementing programmes to empower special interest groups.
“With the existence of gangs and organized crime, alternative pathways will need to be put in place to prevent those leaving a life of crime from becoming easy targets for radicalisation.”
What is the biggest challenge you face working in the P/CVE space in your county?
Abdia: “The disconnect between de-radicalisation programmes and social-economic programmes. One of the contributing factors to radicalisation is our society’s social and economic disparities. To purport to discourage the former without adequately addressing the latter is defeatist in itself. Like the Ugandan proverb goes, ‘we cannot mop the floor with the taps running’. A framework needs to be put in place to promote self-dependence of the target groups (youth) in our case, at an economic level; this could be done by imparting practical skills or setting up entrepreneurial activities they can undertake sustainably. The ripple effect of this would be a proud social standing for our youth, a feeling of belonging in society and an urge to improve.”
Saleh: “The biggest challenge working in P/CVE is the safety of individuals working on P/CVE programmes and their families. The threats they receive on their lives and lives of their loved ones sometimes deflates the spirited efforts by these individuals. Murder, assassination and killings by terror groups and their sympathisers have been reported in the past and very often reduce the momentum of the people working on these programmes. These challenges can lead to mistrust among various stakeholders, reduced information sharing, lack of proper coordination and cooperation which collectively reduce the effectiveness of P/CVE efforts.”
Rukkiya: “While Nakuru has never been attacked or targeted by extremists, this does not mean that it is safe, and several factors make it an environment conducive to radicalisation. Recently there has been several red flags indicating possible problems in the near future if preventive measures are not put in place. The main challenge in such a situation is to find a soft approach towards P/CVE without causing unrest or fear amongst the people. With the existence of gangs and organized crime, alternative pathways will need to be put in place to prevent those leaving a life of crime from becoming easy targets for radicalisation.”
What is the most successful P/CVE project you have come across in your county and why?
Abdia: “The development, launch and eventual implementation of Isiolo County Action Plan on prevention and countering violent extremism (ICAP PCVE). The Isiolo CAP was modelled on the nine pillars of the National Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism (NSCVE) provided by the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Isiolo communities contextualised the NSCVE and developed pillars that suited the Isiolo context. All the nine pillars were adopted and an additional 3 added. In total, Isiolo has 12 well-articulated pillars in the Isiolo CAP.
The implementation of the security pillar has been one of the most successful programmes in Isiolo County. The activity was an example of evidence-based CVE programing and the first of its kind happening in Isiolo. The research looked at the perceptions that communities (categorised as youth, religious leaders and violent extremism-affected families) hold against security agencies and vice-versa. The research recommendations were used to design the project and it achieved great success as a result – the strained relationships and fear between them was demystified in a very big way. The research used intergroup rankings to measure empathy, trust and intergroup perceptions between the police and the identified group.
Despite being well validated in scientific research, until recently, meta-perceptions (i.e. how you think someone thinks about you) were not used in conflict research outside of laboratory settings. Studies have shown that in conflict they are much better predictors of behaviour than personal perceptions, and much easier to correct.”
“The implementation of the security pillar has been one of the most successful programmes in Isiolo County. The activity was an example of evidence-based CVE programing and the first of its kind happening in Isiolo.”
Saleh: “The programmes initiated by H/E Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba, the governor of Mandera County, which aim to empower youths who are vulnerable to extremism. The governor also spearheads open discussions on the matters of violent extremism and negative social economic impacts on the people and entire region. The county government, through his leadership, has formed a fully-fledged P/CVE department, allocated resources and created P/CVE committees, also known as P/CVE heroes, at the sub-county, ward and village levels. He has also implemented youth empowerment programmes through scholarships for teaching life skills, inter-faith dialogue, recruitment of Islamic religious teachers to provide counter-narratives against terrorism, and facilitate correct Islamic teaching of Jihad.”
Rukkiya: “Research has been conducted by both local and national government, and civil Societies, including community-based organisations, on P/CVE work. Through this research, the county was able to draft and pass a Violence Prevention Policy at its local assembly. At the same time a Rapid County Action Plan was drafted, validated by the community leaders and successfully launched. In the two documents, a clear implementation strategy has been outlined. A P/CVE forum has already been constituted which includes stakeholders from both local and national governments, civil societies, community-based organisations, peace and security organs and members of the county assembly. This forum has already begun the implementation process of the strategies that were drafted and agreed upon in the Rapid County Action Plan and the Violence Prevention Policy.”
“Being part of the SCN allows us to reap benefits of obtaining knowledge, expertise and lessons learned from other SCN members in building social cohesion and community resilience in the face of violent extremism.”
Why is it important to you to be part of the Strong Cities Network?
Abdia: “Being part of the SCN allows us to reap benefits of obtaining knowledge, expertise and lessons learned from other SCN members in building social cohesion and community resilience in the face of violent extremism. Recently SCN supported an exchange programme between all its Kenyan members hosted by Isiolo, the newest member of SCN at the time. A large focus of the SCN in Kenya is in supporting the implementation of the CAP activities among its member states. This places us in a strategic position to work very closely especially in the upcoming Kenya Innovation grant which my organisation has competitively applied and won the bid.
Saleh: “The SCN facilitates exchange and networking with other municipalities and cities, including those with the same kinds of challenges, and facilitates capacity-building for staff and institutions. The SCN’s core mandate to ‘connect, inform, empower, build, innovate, and represent’ enable Mandera Municipality to gather the necessary knowhow to address the challenges it faces. Lastly, the SCN has helped me to share my experiences, which will help the entire region develop approaches informed by the work of other cities and municipalities across the globe.”
Rukkiya: “It is a crucial for the county to be proactive rather than reactive in matters of P/CVE. By becoming a member of the SCN, the county will be able to deal with the red flags before they escalate to a severe situation. The SCN through their mandate will help to implement the RCAP as well as the Violence Prevention Policy strategy in the prevention of radicalisation among the youth.”
We wish to thank Abdia, Saleh and Rukkiya for their time and contribution. We are always happy to hear views of practitioners and policymakers on P/CVE matters and welcome any contributions you may have. If you would like to be interviewed or write an article, please contact us at [email protected]