Many Kenyan youths in recent years have been recruited into the Al Shabaab terrorist group.
Many of the propaganda videos released by the terrorist group feature young men clad in camouflage learning hand-to-hand combat, similar to ISIS militants who refer to them as their “Cubs of the Caliphate.” Information from Al Shabaab returnees and security intelligence officials indicates that young women lured into these groups are seen as potential “brides” for its fighters.
The militants have repeatedly promoted videos using high-level production techniques to celebrate their brutality. Al Shabaab and other extremist groups use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to reach their target audience in a language it understands. Their methods include exploiting popular hashtags to disseminate their message.
According to experts, Al Shabaab can appeal to young people’s religious idealism and to a desire to escape the frustrations of life in some of the marginalised communities in Kenya.
Al Shabaab provides a utopian political project, with a centralized Islamic rule, it also provides these deluded young men and women with an adventurous trip. As a reward for allegiance, loyalists may receive “gifts” from Allah for example “a house with free electricity and water provided to you and no rent included.” This sounds great but seeing as the Al Shabaab live in the jungles, training for the “Holy Jihad” is all a blatant lie! They are pushing a false narrative of what it’s really like in the Al Shabaab territory.
Though very secretive, Al Shabaab does have an efficient recruiting network. Through “Madrasa” the Islamic equivalent of Sunday School, rogue teachers can twist and tarnish the loving message of Islam and carry a lot of influence on these young, innocent, vulnerable boys and girls. They usually use this platform to preach propaganda and target vulnerable youth. Muslim parents should ensure our sons and daughters are taught the True message of peace for all whenever they attend mosque or madrasa.
Credible accounts from returnees reveal an organisation that is both brutal and uncompromising. Torture is a regular punishment tool, used for offenses as minor as wearing nail polish. Accounts of women being used as sex slaves and murder of “indisciplined” men are also common.
Kenyans need to recognize that we all have a role to play in saving our youth from having their minds poisoned by this terrorist group. The Kenyan government is trying to step up its efforts to counter Al Shabaab propaganda but we have to deal with this issue as a team, a community.