Community-Led Security Approaches To Violent Extremism In Coastal Kenya; (Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu And Mombasa)

September 20, 2017
Posted in Reports
September 20, 2017 SA Communications

This study, contracted by Search for Common Ground (SFCG), is an evaluation for the two-year project being implemented in four counties: Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Mombasa in the coastal region of Kenya.

TThe study focused on nine selected wards from four counties in Kenya’s Coastal region, namely Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Mombasa. The selection of the wards and specific research areas was based on the prevalence of violent extremist (VE) activities as identified by the existing scholarly literature, relevant information obtained from SFCG and in target areas for partner activities. A total of 394 persons participated in the study using the following qualitative and quantitative methods: 1) focus group discussions (FGDs) (18 groups consisting of 144 people), 2) Key informant interviews (KIIs) (39 people), and 3) a general survey (211 persons). The mixed method of inquiry was analyzed through contextual, and content analysis.

The key limitation of the study was related to security of both the field data collectors and respondents, which affected the proposed sampling distribution among the quantitative and qualitative data; especially for data collection from Kiunga in Lamu, FGD for Gombato Bongwe in Kwale, and survey data in Majengo, Mombasa.
Data from this study is a representation of areas with similar frequency of VE incidents/activity; and thus, should not be over generalized if the area of reference is/are not similar to the areas and counties mentioned in this study.
Views expressed by the study participants may be biased due to the influence of political issues on security and the nearness to the August 2017 general election in Kenya.
1.Contextual analysis: According to the research participants in Mombasa and Kwale , violent extremism has reduced in these areas, as compared to the previous three to four years. In Lamu and Kilifi, most of the FGD discussants and the interviewees were somewhat unclear on whether there was some level of reduction or not. In general, violent extremism is still significant at the coast because of the continuing inhumane treatment by police (unlawful and arbitrary arrests, kidnapping and forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings). Additionally, structural and economic developments like road construction and tourism in the coastal areas have had both positive and negative impacts on VE. The former has usually led to the destruction of people’s property and livelihoods, while the latter has created more jobs but mostly for non-locals, creating resentment among locals. This creates conflicts and influences the push factors to VE.

Radical groups like Al-Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) are present at the coast of Mombasa (31%). Members of these groups are viewed as inhumane. However, radicalization into VE is also viewed by the community as a cry for justice, especially by the oppressed, unemployed and idle youth. Holy war, stolen resources, invasion and the influence of foreigners were said to be, to some extent, a motivating narrative to violent extremism. The key drivers of VE and recruitment were found to be: seeking revenge for extrajudicial killings (24%), unemployment, illiteracy, poor parenting (7%), poverty, oppression of Islamic States or Muslims within Kenya, governance exclusion and marginalization (18%) (land, political involvement, resource and development distribution). Other drivers include frustration and hopelessness, peer pressure and radical interpretation of Islamic teachings by recruiters. From the findings, it can be concluded that these push factors are caused by poor governance and less effective community-security management apparatus. The common push factor as mentioned in Mombasa and Kwale was the revenge for extrajudicial killings and the poor treatment by law enforcement agencies. In addition to those factors, Kilifi and Lamu had other factors mentioned, including; financial gain due to marginalization and peer pressure. Perceived historical injustice was identified as a critical issue that shapes violent extremism, especially in Lamu.

The significant pull factor identified through this study in the four targeted counties is the lucrative incentives that violent extremist groups offer. For instance, qualitative data revealed that Al-Shabaab usually offers 200,000 Kenyan Shillings upfront for joining the group and 80,000 Kenyan Shillings monthly for those that remain. Field Data indicated some narrow distinction between the gang groups and violent extremist groups at the coast. They were of the opinion that the gang groups focused on theft and were uncoordinated, while terrorists or violent extremists are highly coordinated with an ideology that is internationalized. In Kwale specifically, the qualitative data revealed a link between the two because, usually, the youth engaged in gangs have the same vulnerabilities that expose them to violent extremism, and gang groups (spaces) may act as training grounds before youth transition into violent extremist groups.

33% of the respondents were of the opinion that religious activities like Christian festivals and cultural events, sports and community meetings bring the people together. Politics and tribalism create division among the community members. Extremist activities have been influenced by the changing aspects of political and electoral conflicts, a sense of historical marginalization and the extremists’ quest to challenge the system of governance (especially at in the coastal counties of Kenya led by the marginalization narrative). Political instability, historical injustices and tribalism are usually the causes of conflict which ultimately influence or act as precursors to VE.

2. Existing initiatives and actors to counter violent extremism: the study found that the police, policy makers, youth, religious leaders, CSOs/CBOs and the international community are some of the key actors working to counter violent extremism in these communities. The police maintain law and order, as well as investigate and arrest suspects and perpetuators of VE. The religious leaders preach peace for co-existence in the community as outlined in the Quran, but have also been accused by the government of engaging in suspicious activities and spreading teachings that encourage VE. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) especially Community Based Organizations (CBOs) are usually engaged in creating awareness on de-radicalization and countering violent extremism. Finally, the women in the community usually promote and engage in good parenting; while the youth remain vigilant and act as ambassadors of peace, especially in Kwale. Lack of parenting was mentioned as some of the drivers to VE due to the vulnerabilities it creates among the youth.

Even though 85% of the respondents had no idea of any initiative to deal with VE in the communities, they stated that; CSO effort like those led by the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance (KMYA), Kenya Community Support Centre (KECOSCE) and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) in educating the people on security issues through focused group discussions, seminars and forums has led to reduced tensions and intent to engage in VE acts. Generally, the Government of Kenya (GoK), in partnership with CSOs and especially CBOs, have implemented programs that focus on fostering harmony, peace and solving conflict as well as engaging the community in forums and sensitization platforms like Barazas and peace committees. These actors seem to have positively impacted the community as, according to the qualitative data collected, there has been a decrease in the rate at which violent extremism acts as mentioned by 63% of the survey respondents in Kwale.

Despite the fact that 70% of the survey respondents indicated that development and policy issue have not negatively impacted them; the relationship between the police and members of the community is poor due to mistrust and cruelty as indicated by 62% of the respondents. In Kilifi, 86% of the respondents stated that there is no good impact from the activities implemented by various actors on VE. Furthermore, from the general KII and FGD deductions, a substantial number of those citizens that are under security-watch are perceived to be innocent, thus creating the impression in the community that the police are the enemy. Collaboration is only perceived to exist between and among the chiefs, police, village elders and police informants. However, these collaborations are said to not have yielded the desired positive outcomes.

3.Capacity to deal with violent extremism: the study found that 64% of the respondents were of the opinion that issues related to VE are rarely discussed individually and when they are, are considered highly sensitive and shrouded in secrecy. The community engages with issues of security usually through the village elders and religious leaders, while communal conflict resolution mechanisms, and provincial administration teams at county level also play a crucial role. Issues related to violent extremism are talked about in social gatherings by the leaders, Friday prayer sermon, Chief meetings and political meetings. The community manages conflict through communal conflict resolution mechanisms, including discussions with the village elders. However, the youth engaged in violent extremism are perceived to be protected by the community in which they live in, this is attributed to the fact that the community fears the threat from both the law enforcers and the violent extremist groups. The provincial administration team at respective county levels and village elders play a key role in managing conflict. Through village elders and religious leaders, the community can engage in issues related to security.

Unwillingness to give damning information about relatives engaged in violent extremism, fear of victimization, lack of confidentiality, profiling and stereotyping of the Muslim community on the coast, and community mistrust of security forces are all key challenges that the Coast faces with regards to VE. Lack of dialogue and engagement forums is a key challenge to building the community-police relationship.

With regard to activities led by CSO partners in the communities
Expand initiatives like ‘security and peace commitment’ for new residents, which have proven successful in Ziwani in Mombasa and Mpeketoni, in Lamu county; as part of security monitoring process led by the communities.
Involve youth and women from the targeted communities as implementers of peace processes not only to create jobs and financial benefit, but to create a sense of ownership. This is through organizing for avenues where they can suggest solutions to the problems facing them.
Facilitate socialization forums between the police and community; to train the police on better approaches to enhance community-police relationship.
There is need to integrate and coordinate the NGOs, CBOs and CSOs that are engaged in CVE. In addition to KMYA and MUHURI, organizations like International Migration Organization (IMO) and Red Cross are present at the grassroots level. Thus, it will be of strategic importance to partner with those organizations in their respective capacities while also using them as entry points to the community.
Work with small and existing initiatives as entry points when engaging with the community. As an example, there are Nyumba Kumi initiatives that seem to be working in Mpeketoni and Ziwani in Lamu and Mombasa county respectively. Inuka can work with these initiatives to strengthen them beyond the specific wards to the neighbouring areas.
With regard to engaging the Government of Kenya
Partnership with the police and security arm of the GoK should take into consideration the need to train the police force on respect for human rights to reduce VE consequences of brutality, victimization and profiling, to foster friendly community-police relationships that improve information and intelligence sharing, thereby reducing and preventing VE.
The second phase of engagement should involve the GoK’s development offices, supporting them to strengthen equality in economic governance, promote and facilitate involvement of women and youth in the entrepreneurial and governance sector, and address land issues which have been neglected for long.
The project should increase partnership and collaboration between the community and all the law enforcement agencies to deal with VE. This is because, different counties where the program will be working have a representation of both the Kenya Army, administration police and the regular police.
With regard to Do No Harm considerations
Be cognizant of the possibility that some of the law enforcement agencies, may sympathize with extremist organizations , specifically Al-Shabaab, and therefore exercise caution while engaging with them to avoid exposing the community to more risk.
With regard to the needs for further researcha
Due to the fluid nature of conflict in the regions where the program will be implemented, simple activity specific needs analysis should be employed to ensure activities align with the realities of the changing conflict systems in the communities.
Further research should be conducted to understand the influence of gangs on VE in Kenya’s coastal area, youth engagement as double agents in both CVE initiatives and VE, the effectiveness of community-based monitoring systems for community self-protection against VE, and sustainable means to address land-based conflicts that have a significant influence on VE in these areas.
The full report can be found on Search for Common Ground Website




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