Tens of thousands of lives have been lost to violent extremism. The ability of violent extremist groups to expand beyond their points of origin has grown exponentially over the last decade with the increased movement of people, goods and ideas across borders. What makes sub-Saharan Africa an easy sell for extremist groups such as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram?
Poverty is a problem that disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa. It is a vast and complex issue that touches on climate change, sustainable development and–crucially–global security. The link between poverty and violent extremism is compelling, and means that if we want to address extremism, we must fight Poverty. With a large number of the youth in our country facing feelings of deprivation and marginalization, Violent extremism cannot be addressed without tackling the issue of a society’s well being and its ability to sustain a comfortable livelihood.
Despite other techniques to radicalise the at-risk youth, a promise of riches and wealth should they join the extremist cause is perhaps the most compelling.
Returnees and convicted former AlShabaab and Boko Haram have cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as reasons for joining the groups, with very few mentioning religious ideology. Likewise, Kenya’s North Eastern region is feared to be susceptible to radicalisation and violent extremism. This region has been synonymous with extreme poverty, high illiteracy levels and under-investment in basic services. The majority of those living in these regions have for years believed themselves to be excluded from the national development agenda.
This drives the conclusion that a focus on security-led response to extremism cannot provide lasting solutions. Our fight needs to be against all the factors that threaten the wellbeing of our countrymen encompassing a range of social, cultural, economic and political fronts. We should encourage and develop policies and government action that involves the inclusion of marginalised regions in development agendas, the support and welfare of the less fortunate in our communities and the provision of quality education and resultant employment opportunities.