What constitutes terrorism and who is a terrorist? This is one question that has for a long time been debated over and over. Terrorism activities have been on the rampant not only in Kenya but across the globe. Terror groups keep coming up with more complicated tactics of carrying out their activities.
There is little doubt that youths are beginning to play a significant role in this particular arena. Structured and deliberate strategies have been formulated by terrorists to radicalize and recruit young people into committing acts of violence. The advantages in targeting the youths into joining terrorists’ groups are many and terrorists are displaying increased capability and capacity in enlisting them. This coupled with the growing exploitation of technology such as the Internet has allowed the terrorists a far and wide reach.
When there are few opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty, perceived or real, injustice and despair, there is a greater tolerance for violence. Terrorists groups have used these circumstances to their advantage by identifying and offering youths what they are lacking or by even offering them a ‘way out’ of their situation through martyrdom.
Radicalization of youths and their recruitment for violent and illegal activities is not new to Kenya. Criminal gangs, ethnic sects and local militias have been undertaking such recruitment for years. Politicians have used the youth, particularly during elections, to buy votes; intimidate the opposition; create disturbances, fear, and instability; and even to mount violent attacks on opponents and their supporters.
Young people whose parents have sacrificed so much to ensure that they are in school are the same ones joining terror groups. Now recruitment is much more widespread, due to the increasing criminal and terrorist activities in the region. Civil society organizations, among others, are concerned that youths are being openly targeted by extremist organizations and are very susceptible to their offers
ISIS has come on the scene. Al-Shabaab and ISIS are competing to spread the international jihadist agenda and, in the long run, the entry of the well-financed and brutal ISIS into the region could herald more and better-coordinated attacks in Kenya. The latest case is where a Moi University student, arrested on 31st October 2015 is being detained for 10 days over alleged links with ISIS as detectives’ complete investigation.
It is such a worrying trend that needs immediate attention. Jobs need to be created and young people mentored on how to be elf employed after school. Such things will be helpful in making the young get engaged in other things other than joining terror groups. Terrorism in Kenya has resulted in not only the loss of lives, personal suffering and pain, but also in growing instability and a heightened sense of insecurity. The latter has harmed the country’s economy.
Much more attention has to be paid to the youth by increasing opportunities for education, employment and political participation. Youth need to be able to engage productively in a politics that builds unity, is based on common values and holds out the real prospect of change by democratic means if the extremist ideologies are to be starved of new recruits. Youth leadership exchange programmes should be promoted by international partners as well as regionally. Self-evidently more support is needed for the organizations working in the slums and informal settlements on education, youth activities, vocational training as well employment.