Radicalisation of Kenyan youth is a scourge that continues to drive hundreds of the youth to support, join and fight for Al-Shabaab. Studies have shown that the reasons for joining extremist organization vary between different social groups in the community. While some youth in poor neighborhoods are attracted by the allure of money, jobs and material reward, others believe in the jihadist ideology advocated by militant groups. The studies have further cited that others join for adventure, while others are enticed through peer pressure.
Photo courtesy of: Terror Free Somalia
Since 2012, Al-Shabaab has been recruiting a large number of Kenyans into its ranks. By December 2014, it was estimated that Al-Shabaab comprised around 25% of Kenyan fighters. Methods of Recruitment by Al-Shabaab have changed with time from recruitment by rogue clerics who were involved in radicalizing Muslim youth in mosque’s to currently recruitment via social media and through peers. Al-Shabaab is also targeting women and unsuspecting university students. In 11 September 2016, three women were killed after they attacked Central Police Station in Mombasa. This was a wake up call on the changing tactics by extremists, evidenced by the presence of women at the front line of terrorism.
Currently, the existing de-radicalization narratives are often initiated either by the Government, Non-governmental Organizations or religious institutions. The Kenyan youth is a highly vibrant audience in terms of receptivity and accessibility of information. In drafting their lines of engagement, in-depth audience analysis for appropriate and effective messaging is thus imperative.