Hardly a day goes without the Horn of Africa dominating the news headlines. The ascendency is usually in the form of issues related to geo-politics in the region. Factors ranging from Elections, to Refugees and even the question around climate change, plague the conflict management strategies in the region. One recent issue is that of elections and political parties. As many nations in the Horn go through the electoral process in 2017, we analyze some of its impacts to CT and CVE initiatives in the region.
Elections in Africa and more so in the Horn, have had a lot of emotions associated with the process. In 2017, Kenya and Rwandai held their elections in August and while both seemed peaceful, there were other undelying issues that caused tensions in both countries; esspecially in Kenya. The complications associated with election processes in the region is further compounded by the conflict systems in the area. More critically, the question of terrorism has made the region to be on constant alert. Election period have been preceded by deaths and disappearances associated with terrorism as seen in Lamuii and Garissaiii in Kenya. Available data indicate that we have around 711 fatalities reported from 1st of January – 7th of August 2017; forming 13% of all reported fatalities in the world. (5,224 fatalities reported so far)iv The map below shows the consentration of the areas where these fatalities took place
Data sources from Lamu indicate that some of the attacks happening in this area is as a result of the sympathizers in the community. Our analysis preditct that, the continued presence of extremist activities is as a consequence of the symbiotic-partnership that is un-knowingly supported by the community which allows these elements to hide within them.v Our Security review data of 14th July – 17th July 2017 support the prediction by mentioning that Jaysh Ayman; which is an Islamic militia aligned to Alshabaab, that is exploiting old land grievances as an infiltration model.vi In Somalia, post election processes have seen assassinations conducted on elected officials in different areas as seen in the case of the governor of Galgaduud.vii The table above also indicates the numerous deaths associated with political engagements in Somalia and other countries in the Horn as seen below.
Resent study in western Kenya informally indicated that some areas of the opposition would easily support the opposition led by Rt. Hon Raila Amollo Odinga.viii Kisumu which was seen as susceptible to electoral violence at the time was also seen as an area that had a lot of ready youth who would easily be recruited into extremist organizations. Some of the youth interviewed casually mentioned that Kisumu had not seen the wrath of Alshabaab because the opposition was pro-removal of KDF from Somalia. As we fast forward to post August 8th and the demonstrations experienced in the country; most of the areas affected included the opposition strong-holds like Kisumu. There was also an alleged killing of “innocent protestors” in affected regions.ix The most emotive moments for the nation was when claims of children being killed in Matharex and another incident leading to death of baby Pendo; was shared with the media.xi These incidents were followed closely with the attack in Garissa by Al-Shabaab where five officers were killed.xii Various members of the community took to social media congratulating the acts of terror and claiming that; “Great job, Tano Tena.”xiii Our analysis of the sentiments depict three major clusters that feature sentiments from the community. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), we are able to cluster feedback from the community into perseptions that show developing naratives from different communities. Apart from community discussions on issues related to the benefits of winning in the elections; esspecially in Garissa, most of the members were in celebration after the attack. Some of the sentiments were; (Positive enforcement)
- For the first time the Alshabaab have done something that is appreciated by Kenyans
- Great job Al-shabaab, five more years
In addition, even though the community was showing some level of sadness to the garissa attack, they did not see the officers as members of the community. Some of the sentiments were; (negative enforcement)
- The officers are not able to do their work and can not fight the enemy we expect them to fight
- The death of the five officers is done, we need to accept and move on as Kenya is greater that the five
In general, social media discussion around terrorism and its relationship to an acquisition of power has not been highlighted. Issues related to Violent Extremism in the region and more so in Kenya, risk creating a situation where we will have more sympathizers for radicalization and recruitment. In addition, sentiment sharing online and participation may also increase the discussion around self-radicalization of communities as it plays to the emotive side of the community. We also risk expanding the at-risk communities in this country. Finally, social media analysis may also be used to understand various conventional narratives and their propagation towards extremism as seen above. It can be used to develop alternative narrative programming that is area specific and targeted.