SCN in Sub-Saharan Africa
There is increasing recognition among the international community that local officials and practitioners can play a crucial role in addressing conditions that create an enabling environment for violent extremism to thrive. A growing number of cities are developing strategies and initiatives that address radicalisation and violent extremism, for example, in Dakar, Senegal; Mombasa, Kenya; or in Bamako, Mali.
The continent of Africa continues to face a number of security challenges, including in Libya, Mali, Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Primarily through the actions of Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliates, violent extremism poses a threat to security in the region and impedes development and socioeconomic prospects for many countries in the region. Violent extremist groups have transformed traditional and cultural practices and fostered ideas and actions that foment social tensions and intolerance, strain relationships between communities and the state, and constrain the space for dialogue and development. According to the Global Terrorism Index (2016), a number of countries from Africa suffer the highest impact of terrorism, including Nigeria, Somalia, Cameroon, Niger, Kenya, and Mali. Meanwhile, hard security responses to terrorism and violent extremism continue to dominate across the continent, which can be counterproductive and add to existing grievances against the state when counterterrorism operations disregard rule of law and human rights.
To read a full assessment of the region, please refer to the SCN Regional Assessment Report about violent extremism in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Right now we are developing [the SCN Local Action Planning model] for 14 villages in Cameroon.” Our partner organisation ARK Jammers Connection Inc.
Design – Policy and Strategy
City consultations Kenya
In June 2019, the SCN team led consultation activities with Isiolo, Lamu and Nakuru counties in Kenya. Following extensive engagement with SCN founding member Mombasa since 2015, and in light of existing efforts across Kenya to counter violent extremism at county level, the SCN saw a real opportunity to build on its successes with Mombasa county and expand activities in Kenya. With a view to inform future programming, the SCN team visited county governors and their cabinet, county commissioners, local civil society involved in CVE efforts, as well as other relevant CVE partners to inform a comprehensive needs assessment. Based on these city consultations, the SCN designed a programme of work, partnering with five Kenyan counties (Isiolo, Kwale, Lamu, Mombasa and Nakuru) to implement County Action Plans, providing support to grassroots organisations, training to local practitioners, and inter-county exchanges with a view to promote peer learning and cross-county collaboration.
City consultations in Nigeria
The SCN is currently planning an exciting new phase of engagement with Nigeria, with the aim to deepen its collaboration with founding members Kaduna State and Kano State, as well as other relevant local authorities. Stay tuned…
Over the past three years, we have supported municipal authorities in Dakar, Kwale and Mombasa to better adapt their local programming with youth at the centre. We have piloted innovative trainings on global best practice, provided cities with policy advice – including tailored research and focus group insights into local youth grievances and extremism-related challenges – to form the basis of future city-level programming, and offered opportunities for youth-city collaboration. Ultimately, this enables local governments to ensure that programmes and policies that affect youth are informed by them and are relevant to their needs.
In Dakar, we have been working with the municipality of the Ville de Dakar and facilitating collaboration with local youth to deliver the city’s first ever community perception survey on violent extremism, with the research led by youth themselves, to feed into future city P/CVE programming. While in Kwale, Young Cities cooperated with the Kwale County Forum on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism between November 2019 and February 2020, to implement a project to improve the participation of youth in political processes through training, dialogue and sensitisation. A current project is being developed with Mombasa County to integrate youth voices into the County’s new resilience strategy.
Build – Local Prevention Infrastructure
Local innovation grants
In 2017, the SCN awarded a local innovation grant for Sub-Saharan Africa to HAKI Africa. HAKI Africa used the local innovation grant to strengthen collaboration and cooperation between the Mombasa County government, the national government and civil society organisations on the design of a joint implementation of the Mombasa County Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism.
The SCN awarded a second round of local innovation grants in January 2020 to six organisations in Kenya. Based in Isiolo, Kwale, Lamu, Mombasa and Nakuru counties, these organisations have been supporting the implementation of the County Action Plans to Counter Violent Extremism. Read more about these organisations below.
- Coast Women in Development (Mombasa): the project “Putting Citizens at the Heart of CVE Initiatives in Mombasa” seeks to develop a gender responsive community-Led early warning and early response framework for the Mombasa County Action Plan for Prevention/Countering Violent Extremism. This framework will help the community with simple guidelines on how to identify radicalisation and recruitment to extremist groups.
- Human Rights Agenda (Kwale): the project “Towards Refreshing and Furthering Implementation of the Kwale County Action Plan on Countering Violent Extremism” seeks to improve mechanisms and structures used by Kwale P/CVE actors in jointly monitoring implementation of and progress on the Kwale County Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism, as well as strengthening partnerships amongst P/CVE actors in Kwale.
- Isiolo Peace Link (Isiolo): the project “Implementation of faith based ideology pillar in Isiolo CVE CAP” contributed to the implementation of the Faith and Ideology Pillar of the Isiolo County Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism through capacity building of local faith leaders in effective communication methods for peace and countering violent extremism messaging. Following an initial training, faith leaders disseminated their counter-narratives via radio shows to 10,000 listeners across Isiolo county.
- Kiunga Youth Bunge Initiative (Lamu): the project “Lamu CAP Review and Reinvigoration”, implemented by KIBY in partnership with Kikozi Programme Group, gives vulnerable youth across Lamu County an opportunity to contribute to the implementation of the Lamu County Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism by creating cooperation mechanisms with relevant county-level CVE actors, including the county government and county commissioner’s office.
- Pastoralist Women for Livelihood and Social Support (Isiolo): the project “Enhance Pastoralist Women and Girls’ knowledge and skills on P/CVE” focuses on the Women Pillar of the Isiolo County Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism with a specific focus on pastoralist women. The project seeks to improve pastoralist women’s knowledge of Isiolo’s violent extremism landscape and the county’s response, as well as gain a better understanding of their perspectives to advocate for more tailored gender-sensitive approaches to CVE in the county.
- Youth Bila Noma (Nakuru): the project “Mtaani Kwetu” (“Our hood”) seeks to implement the Economic and Media pillars of the Nakuru County Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism by raising awareness of the threat among youth in vulnerable localities and opening avenues for socio-economic opportunities through basic skills training and partnerships with the private sector.
Train – Training and Capacity Building
Young Cities Labs
Our Youth Innovation Labs are a pioneering approach to training, having based their methodology on over six years of delivering youth-facing training through our sister project, YouthCAN. In Dakar, Kwale and Mombasa, our tailored Labs and follow-up support have enabled youth to achieve tangible, positive impact in their communities, based on their needs and the challenges they face.
The model for our lab works based on five primary pillars, which are implemented together over a term of six months or more:
- UNDERSTAND: We conduct analysis – involving desk-based research, surveys, bespoke social media listening tools, and focus groups with relevant stakeholders and youth – to facilitate a joint and nuanced understanding of the range of issues facing youth, and enable them to develop initiatives that are strategic and impactful.
- PARTNER: We take the time to identify and build relationships with local organisations and experts, who can provide tailored, on-the-ground support in the development and implementation of youth-led initiatives and manage relationships with local municipal authorities.
- TRAIN: We combine a full suite of training modules that upskill youth to become more effective civic actors in their communities, and together enable them to transform their ideas for community-based initiatives into reality. Training modules cover the entire process of project-development, from identifying a challenge and goal-setting to budget-planning and project strategy.
- IMPLEMENT: Supporting youth in transforming their ideas into tangible campaigns is a core objective of Young Cities. With our flexible approach we help youth make a positive impact in their communities in both the short and long term. Our evidence-driven impact model places more emphasis on extensive youth-led planning and research as core components of effective campaigning. We work with groups of more than 20 participants, on ambitious projects that are made effective by their longer-term strategic vision.
- COOPERATE: Through our relationship with the Strong Cities Network, we have relationships with over 140 cities across 45 countries. We aim to empower youth through close cooperation with local policy-makers, using our City Grant mechanism, and CSOs, to maximise campaigns’ effectiveness and enable a future generation of leaders who are empowered to make tangible change.
We expanded into the city of Dakar in July 2019, where we worked in tandem with youth and municipal representatives from the Ville de Dakar to identify the challenges most pressing to the city and to its youth. By supporting youth to develop their own initiatives, these issues were able to be addressed through creative mediums and approaches. A concert was organised to raise awareness about gender-based violence, a documentary was filmed by ex-convicts to highlight and challenge misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding conviction in the community, an online webinar series helped to build digital literacy and improve positive social media engagement, and a research project aimed to understand the deep feelings of mistrust and tension between the police and youth.
Kwale County, on the outskirts of Mombasa’s greater metropolitan area, has been increasingly in the spotlight following Kenya’s constitutional devolution process since 2010. We found through our research that youth in Kwale felt discriminated and marginalized in decision-making, faced high unemployment, were vulnerable to gang and extremist recruitment, and fearful of pervasive violence in their communities. Through their initiatives, youth in Kenya have been capitalising on the new avenues being presented for engaging with other youth in economic and political decision-making processes, tackling online harms and dangers, as well as helping to heal traumas and empowering youth to become powerful actors for change.
When we began our programming in Mombasa, we wanted to gain valuable, localized insight into the causes of violent extremism in the region, the relationship between youth and municipal government, as well as crucial youth grievances. We met with CSOs, representatives of the County Government and organised a roundtable involving young activists and county officials to better understand how to improve youth perceptions of local government and the police. The comprehensive study found that youth unemployment, a culture of delegitimizing the voices of youth, and poor youth-police relations were major factors in fostering youth-related violence. Our work in Mombasa has already enabled youth to develop 5 campaigns, aiming to reduce recruitment into gangs, improve relationships between youth and the police and increase ways to involve youth at the local level. We have 4 more youth-driven campaigns on the way, that build on the previous campaigns – applying lessons-learned in the field of CVE and sub-national youth governance.
Regional practitioners workshop in Dakar, Senegal
The first Strong Cities Network (SCN) Regional Practitioners’ Workshop took place on 9 and 10 March 2017. The workshop was hosted by the city of Dakar in collaboration and led by the Global Center on Cooperative Security (Global Center) and ISD. The workshop brought together city officials and practitioners to share best practice and experience and engage with in-depth training on local action planning for CVE. Participants represented 15 cities from ten countries across West Africa, the Sahel, and the Greater Horn of Africa: Kousseri and Waza Reserve (Cameroon); Tadjourah (Djibouti); Kwale, Lamu, Mombasa (Kenya); Bamako (Mali); Kiffa (Mauritania); Diffa, Naimey (Niger); Kano State, Lagos (Nigeria); Zanzibar (Tanzania); and Kampala (Uganda). The workshop was also joined by representatives from the City of Kristiansand, Norway, and the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV), based in the City of Montreal, Canada. Click here to read the full report of the workshop.
As a member, you can also access all the PowerPoints used during the presentations and break out sessions here.
Inform – Data and Tools
Online extremism mapping
Utilising ISD’s digital research capabilities and expertise, the SCN complements its programming on the ground with research into the online extremism ecosystem. By investigating the scale and nature of online hateful, extremist and polarising speech in Kenya, the SCN is in a position to better inform local efforts in member cities.
Young Cities COVID-19-related mis-/disinformation research
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation and disinformation, as well as hateful and extremist content, has been increasing. Young Cities adapted its research programming to understand: 1. what the main hateful or extremist narratives are that are being spread in Senegal and Kenya in the digital space, since the start of the outbreak; and 2. whether these narratives differ depending on the platform on which they spread. The research is combining a mixed-methodological approach, firstly training youth in content collection on WhatsApp and Facebook, secondly conducting a joint analysis of hateful and extremist narratives, with youth at the centre; and thirdly expand our analysis using surveys deployed to over 300 youth respondents to understand how youth are specifically affected by COVID-related hateful, extremist or misinformative content online. The analysis is still ongoing, but will lead to the development of tailored campaigns and policy-briefs by the end of 2020.
Connect – Global & Local Partnerships
Kenya intercounty exchange
Counties in Kenya have faced similar challenges in developing their County Action Plans to counter violent extremism (CAPs): from ensuring all relevant actors join the discussions, to creating dialogue between stakeholders that do not cooperate traditionally, to securing commitment from politicians on such a politicised topic. All counties have gathered lessons learned from the CAP development process and the various barriers to their effective implementation. While communication and cooperation between county-level CVE actors across Kenya has not yet been systematised, it will be key in ensuring effective CVE processes going forward.
In an effort to start establishing those relations, the SCN convened a three-day learning exchange between Isiolo, Kwale, Lamu, Mandera, Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru counties to promote county-to-county learning at the practitioners’ level on P/CVE County Action Plans (CAPs). Co-hosted by Isiolo County Government and in partnership with the Commissioner’s Office and the CVE Engagement Forum, this exchange sought to create dialogue at the working level on lessons learned, emerging practice, and successes and challenges in drafting and implementing CAPs. Click here to read the report on the SCN inter-county exchange in Kenya.
City exchange: Mombasa – Kristiansand
The SCN second bilateral exchange took place on 19-23 March 2018 between the cities of Mombasa, Kenya and Kristiansand, Norway. This exchange focused on the key themes of prevention and resilience building among local youth, implementation of local P/CVE action plans, and multi-agency cooperation. The visit included a series of training workshops and round table discussions, including with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Kristiansand, the local crime prevention teams in the municipality and police department, the Norwegian Institute for the Prevention of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism (Plattform), the United Nations Association of Norway, and a range of local CSOs and community leaders. A high-level delegation travelled to Kristiansand to attend these sessions, including Munywoki Kyalo, County Executive Committee member in charge of Youth, Gender, Sports, and Cultural; and Munira Hamisi, Director for P/CVE in the Office of the Governor of Mombasa County.
City exchange: Kristiansand – Mombasa
Building on the previous SCN city exchange held in March 2018, a high-level delegation from Kristiansand, Norway, travelled to Mombasa, Kenya, from 19-23 November 2018 to engage in an exchange of best practice on youth engagement and preventing violent extremism in the context of crime prevention. The Kristiansand delegation, led by the Deputy Mayor of Kristiansand, shared their approach to youth engagement and P/CVE with their Mombasa counterparts during a workshop for local government stakeholders as part of the Mombasa Young Cities Innovation Lab.
The exchange culminated in the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between Deputy Mayor Kristiansen of Kristiansand and Governor Joho of Mombasa, which outlines a comprehensive bilateral cooperation programme between the two cities in the realm of PVE, involving practitioner exchanges and trainings, but also youth exchanges, civil society mobilisation, and crime and violence prevention programming. This is a significant milestone for the two cities, coming out of the efforts of both leaders to foster collaboration and learning under the auspices of the SCN over the last three years.
City exchange: Dakar – Montreal
ISD held the first SCN bilateral exchange on 16-18 October 2017, building cooperation and shared learning to counter violent extremism between the cities of Dakar, Senegal and Montreal, Canada. Hosted in Montreal by Esteban Benavides, the city’s International Relations Adviser, this exchange was the first of its kind and aims to promote and share on a city-to-city basis vital practical tools and initiatives to reduce local risk, prevent violence and build cohesive communities. Top officials from Dakar travelled to Montreal to attend these sessions, including Maye Seck, Urban Security Adviser to the Mayor, and Papa Alassane Seck, Supervisor of Dakar’s innovative Volunteer Programme. Click here to read the report on the SCN city exchange between Dakar and Montréal.
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)
In December 2019, delegates from SCN member cities in Kenya visited key U.S. cities, including Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and San Diego, to learn more about their work at the international, national and grassroots level to prevent violent extremism. The IVLP seeks to promote international understanding through the exchange of people and ideas, and the visit encompassed a broad range of cultural centres and organisations. Read more about the IVLP.
- Inspired four SCN members from the far-north region of Cameroon to develop local action plans following their participation in the Regional Practitioners’ Workshop in Dakar in 2017.
- Developed youth participatory governance models with over 50 local government leaders driven by global best practice and cutting-edge research.
- Created dedicated youth offices and initiatives in three cities across Kenya and Senegal designed jointly by youth and local policymakers.
- Propelled youth voices to launch powerful campaigns engaging over 200 young people, from ex-convicts in the most disadvantaged areas of Dakar (Senegal) to members of local youth councils in Mombasa (Kenya).
Resources for the region
Our local partners
The SCN works together with several partners