Radicalization of Youth in Mombasa, Kenya – Quo Vadis?

By: Paul Adhoch – Trace Kenya*

The first cases of Kenyan youth radicalization, recruitment and trafficking for militia and Al-Shabaab fighting in Somalia was reported in 2006 by civil society organizations in Mombasa and Nairobi. Some places in Mombasa and Nairobi formed the foci of these activities. With time these radicalization activities took root in the country. At that time the government of Kenya took a dim view of the Civil Society Organizations reports and dismissed them as “mere propaganda and alarmist”. There were vehement denials across the country concerning such recruitments. Four years later, the government acknowledged the fact that youth were actually being recruited for terrorist activities generally; in Al-Shabaab and have also been convicted for partaking in the terrorist activities. A number of youth are now serving lengthy jail terms for being members of terrorist groups.

In October 2011, the government of Kenya sent the military (Kenya Defense Forces) to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab and to support the international community on war on terror. Even then the government acknowledged that this was an uphill task with the assistant minister for internal security Mr. Orwa Ojode (RIP) claiming that the terror group had its tail in Somalia and its head in Eastleigh. A year later, Kismayu, an Al-Shabaab strongpoint was captured.
The military (KDF), is still in Somalia to-date with “no exit plan” according to the Cabinet Secretary on Defence Ms Rachel Omamo. The presence of the KDF in Somalia seemed to have increased local soft target terrorist activities in Kenya best witnessed in the Westgate Mall attack last year. There have been numerous soft target attacks including churches, restaurants, and public transport mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa and Mandera cities. These are considered as revenge attacks as a result of KDF activities in Somalia. Other countries except Uganda with a similar military expedition in Somalia have not faced similar attacks. One may ask why the Al-Shabaab revenge attacks have been severe in Kenya? It is a fact too that Ethiopia has a large contingent of its defense forces in Somalia, yet they are not subject to same severity despite their proximity to Somalia.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that i. unlike her neighbours, Uganda, and Burundi except Ethiopia, Kenya has a large border with Somalia. ii. Kenyan and Somali citizens, have also intermarried and live mainly in the four cities in Kenya that have suffered the brunt of attacks. iii. There is a huge population of refugees. Urban refugees are resident mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa. iv. There are also indications that the terror group has its sympathizers in the country. v. Kenya is also seen as a strategic ally of the western countries hence attacking it sends a strong message globally.

In seeking to address the above concerns, the Kenya government has initiated a concerted effort to flush out illegal immigrants living in Mombasa and Nairobi. This effort was started in the early weeks of April 2014. The effort has elicited opposition by several citizens who see it as harassment of innocent citizens. The condemnation has been extended to the fact that house searches are undertaken without warrants and the fact that one ethnic group is being targeted. This has made the Kenyans of Somali origin to live in fear. On the other hand a number of citizens are supportive of these swoops – as a result of the recent terror activities. They also claim that criminals have also come to the limelight as a result of the swoops.

The government has also since March 2014 i. ordered the return of all Somali refugees from Daadab Camp – the largest of the camps, back to Somalia. This has equally met some resistance from some local and international humanitarian organizations who wish to have a structured and secure return for the refugees. ii. Some members of the Kenyan parliament have insisted that the camp be re-located into Somalia territory, from whence the refugees can find their way to their respective homes in Somalia.

While the above approaches may reach some success as far as dealing with external terrorists is concerned, dealing with home grown terrorism is more difficult. The philosophy of terror groups lies in promoting radical ways to address issues. These groups have also radicalized youth to violently eject Imams not buying into radical philosophies, destroy churches, actively and violently demonstrate against the state and display intolerance to “non-believers”. Terror activities have a potential of undermining the stability of Islam in the coastal region and Kenya in general. They also present a possible route to sectarian violence such as that witnessed in Nigeria through Boko Haram. Matters are not made any better by the fact that many youth in this category are of modest formal education.

Radicalism poisons young people who are later trafficked to be trained to undertake terrorist activities. Some leading Islamic scholars have called for re-education of the youthful terrorist returnees. They have also called for deepening of scholarship to Imams so as to counsel and guide the youth on the true meaning of the term “jihad”. In 2013, 160 Muslims scholars declared a fatwa (decree) on Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. They will congregate again later in 2014 to evaluate the progress of the decree. It would also be important for these leaders to think of different measures to dissolve radicalization and start a gradual process of rehabilitating, reintegrating and educating those finding themselves in terror acts. They should also think of permanent preventative activities.
In the meantime, the government of Kenya must of necessity, ensure that population harmed by terror activities do not grow their own fundamentalists’ groups as a result of anger. Continuous prevention is a must. The police and all concerned should continue strengthening security at all times. It is important however that human rights are respected in all process. Secondly, there is need for proper reintegration and reabsorption of the former terrorist youth through trauma and psychological accompaniment be they in the prisons or elsewhere.

*The writer is the Director of Trace Kenya. Trace Kenya is a counter trafficking in persons NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.


Kibra Celebrates the Street Children Day

Post by Michael Asenga

Find pictures of the day here
The street children day was marked on 12th April 2014 in Kibera bringing various organizations. (Koinonia Community, Amnesty International, Pillars of Kibera, Consolation East Africa, Shofco, De-Paul Home Olympic, faith based organizations representing the various mosques and churches in Kibera) and stakeholders interested on the plight of these children. 17 primary schools of Kibera were part of the celebrations. Tone la Maji and Consolation East Africa (CEA) among the local civil society, faith based organizations, schools and government departments with special respect to the children’s office provided the leadership for these efforts. This event went on concurrently with other activities carried out in different parts of the country in honour of the street children.

The event started with a match at Karanja Road that ended at Ndugu Mdogo home. The guest of honour at the event was the Deputy Count Commissioner for Kibra. The event was graced by various children artistic presentations. The first presentation being a poem that highlighted on the life of street children. It underlined vividly public stigma directed to these children, neglect and the life of fear . The second presentation painted a picture on the lives of orphans, illustrating social alienation that leads them to street life. The children were encouraged to see themselves as not being alone because God is their constant companion and will never leave them uncared for. Various artistes were present, notable among them being the MOG who sang and danced together with the children. The civil society and faith based organizations, used the occasion to lobby with the government for more efforts to empower street and poor families and for better services for the street children not only in Kibra but the entire country.
During the event, a speech was presented on the status of the street children in Kenya. This speech was followed by a presentation of an on-going study on reintegration challenges experienced by young adults once they leave charitable institutions of care (CCIs). The study is conducted by KARDS in association with Koinonia Community, Kenya Society of Care-leavers (KESCA) and Koinonia Beneficiaries Welfare Association (KOBWA).
The study exposes dysfunctional and poverty ridden backgrounds characterizing the street children phenomenon in Kenya. It also explored other childhood experiences such as exposure to violence, rejection at an early age, hunger, malnutrition and disease. These extreme experiences including peer pressure may act as push factors to street life. Appropriate measures are always needed to effect reintegration at an early opportunity. Where this is not possible, the charitable children institutions (CCIs) could come in handy to save children from severe negative consequences of street life. There are however a myriad challenges experienced when the reintegration process is not successful. First the young adults are expected to become instant adults, fending for themselves and assuming adult responsibilities. Secondly the weak family ties by these children exposes them to all manner of possible exploitation including human trafficking. Thirdly, the children may end up becoming “teenage parents”, criminals or commercial sex workers. Lastly, there are always dangers that the young adults may relapse back to the streets. The government could play a role in reintegration through easing the procedure of issuing identity cards for the former street youth and provide opportunities for work integration. The study is ongoing and will probably be finished in August 2014.
This presentation was followed by the launch of an illustrated booklet on the rights of the child. The booklet was distributed to all the children in attendance during the day.
The area Chief then introduced the government officers who had graced the occasion. He explained that the government appreciates civil societies and other stakeholders working to assist the street children of Kibera. He then invited the deputy County commissioner for Kibera who after acknowledging the work done by the civil society in rescuing children responded to the request that had been raised by various stakeholders urging sub-county officers to be considerate when issuing identity cards to street children. Lastly, he expressed concerns about the recent radicalization of youth by some civil societies and urged that children and young people need to be taught how to love their country and become harbingers of peace.

Lastly, all in attendance were asked to visit and support the “street children day” website.

Schools that participated
A. Old Kibera Primary
B. Again Primary school
C. Toi primary school
D.st Juliet Primary school
E.Depaul children center
F.Ibrahim children
G. Utu primary school
H. Little Prince
I .line saba kings
J.Mbagathi Primary

2. Churches and Mosques

3. Human Right activists

Hamlet international
Children of Kibera
Carroliner for Kibera
Binti Muslims community
Pillars of Kibera
Scout groups
Lift the children Kibera
Young rovers kibera
Deputy County Commissioner
Other guests
Dco Langatta Mrs Harriet Kiara
Chief Mr
Ass chiefs

Mediation between two farmers having a border dispute (Alternative Dispute Resolution)

R. Muko.
True stories of successful alternative dispute resolutions in the Abyei Community collected from AHRS in Sudan. Difficult environments such as Abyei in most cases have undeveloped justice systems hence the local structures (family, church, friends etc) do play a great role in conflict situations. A case of a land dispute is presented below.

Two farming neighbours Fadi and Adamo bordering each other were involved in land border dispute. According to Fadi, Adamo had encroached in to the side of Fadi as a result of his farming activities. Fadi in order to find a solution to the problem approached Adamo to discuss this issue. Adamo on his part was insistent that he had farmed on what was rightfully his farm.
Fadi and Adamo in time experienced a stalemate in their discussions. Fadi then decided to seek the assistance of Jose to help them sort out their stalemate. The first thing after listening to them, Jose advised them to pursue non-violent means to solving their issue. He then accompanied them to their farm and found that it was true that the border had truly been interfered with and it was not there.
Jose then asked Fadi “up to which point does your land extend?”
Fadi pointed to a place that was immediately disputed by Adamo. “That is inside my farm!” claimed Adamo.
Jose then asked Adamo the same question he also pointed saying “my farm extends from here to there”. Fadi on his part retorted “lier, your farm does not extend that far. You are trying to steal my farm! Please desist from pointing inside my farm.”
At this point Jose realized that that the issue was becoming very complex, as both disputants were claiming a right on what could have been rightfully someone else’s farm. At this point he decided to adjourn the meeting promising the two parties that he would communicate with them after he had consulted.
Jose decided to seek for advice from his church. It also happened that Fadi and Adamo were also congregants at this church. After deep consultations, he was advised to call both Fadi and Adamo. They obliged and narrated their stories infront of a church committee created to help them solve their dispute. The committee then chose a member of their church Nekesa to assist Jose in finding a solution to among Fadi and Adamo.
The two representative church committee members after this first sitting decided to visit the farm under dispute. They examined the two farms and truly found out that there was no clear demarcation. Both Fadi and Adamo were claiming that the other had encroached into his farm.
After some long discussion it became apparent that both Fadi and Adamo had planted sorghum but they separately had planted breeds of different colors. With this information in mind the two mediators Jose and Nekesa suggested that it was not possible to solve the dispute until the sorghum matures. This suggestion was agreed by the two disputants. After the sorghum had matured, the two disputants Fadi and Adamo approached their mediators Nekesa and Jose and converged to solve the border problem.
Nekesa told Jose “Hey Jose look here there is a mixture of red and yellow sorghum in this section of the land.”
“Yes, yes, I see and I think that the solution to our problem lies in this section.” Said Jose. Turning to the disputants he told them “This is the portion where the mixture of sorghums is. Having listened to your submissions, and according to our observations let us work on finding a solution.”
The two disputants Fadi and Adamo also agreed unanimously that the border was passing around that area. The four both the disputants and the mediators then determined the rightful border to the satisfaction of all. They erected beacons or clear marks to separate the two farms. They also took pictures, an agreement was then drafted and the disputing parties signed it. Fadi and Adamo signed it to signal their agreement while Jose and Nekesa signed it as witnesses. The agreement deed was made in four copies for the two disputants and also for the witnesses.

Why does the Marriage Bill Discriminate on Account of Mental Illness? Where Are My Human Rights?

By Maina Mucuthi

The marriage bill can be downloaded from here

When the new constitution 2010 was passed, everybody Kenyan citizen got their right to life and non discrimination enshrined and guaranteed in this document. Upon further analysis of the document, at no point did it clearly desegregate people suffering from ailments. This could have been as a result of the realization that ailments can afflict any person and they are momentary in nature. Additionally, the drafters of the constitution could have understood that having an ailment is not reason enough not to enjoy all the rights enjoyed by others not having ailments.

The 11th parliament has been very vocal in telling anybody who cares to listen that they are the supreme legislation body and it is their primary responsibility to make laws for Kenyans. They have also been very vocal in making it clear that in their legislative role, nobody should tell them what to do or purport to school them on how they should conduct their business. Despite the election of capable and learned people into the August house, I stand to disagree with some of the work product of the august house – specifically the marriage bill as currently drafted.

Clauses 5, 11, 12, 66, 73 and 89 of the bill are discriminatory against persons with mental illnesses. According both to medics and from the definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary, mental illnesses include but are not constrained to Dyslexia among others. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence.

The Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Kenya (USP) have said that the clauses deny persons with mental conditions and disabilities the right to marry and found a family while perpetuating stereotypes about people with mental conditions. The group further says that the bill establishes discriminatory grounds which not only violate persons with mental health conditions and disabilities but also opens up more avenues for abuse of others in vulnerable circumstances. “Categorizing “incurable insanity” as a ground for divorce will serve, and already serves, as tool for the powerful side in the marriage to abuse the other side, whether or not there is a disability or illness.” USP say

“You take away the right to marry, you take away the choice to self-determination, right to own property, ability to engage in commerce, operate bank accounts, right to health, who to live with and other liberties that enhance the quality of life for all Kenyans on an equal basis with all the other citizens. We will be creating a subclass in society of superior and inferior citizenship which is unconstitutional and against international legal obligations that bind Kenya as a State in the world.” USP add. I agree with this lobby group when they further say that mental illnesses/disorders are categorized as Non-Communicable Diseases as they have the potential to be long-term and chronic but it is not always the case. These conditions are manageable if affected individuals can live a normal life with the right support systems, policies and access to consistent medical bill.

“This bill seems to imply that having a mental illness or condition such as depression or anxiety is full time. The nature of illness in the human body is unpredictable just as our humanity is, and if this Bill had gone through public participation as envisioned in the Constitution they would have received an education on the same from the persons affected, their families and professionals as stakeholders to the life changing consequences that emanate.” USP say. Finally I ask, does it mean that because I am ill I do not qualify to enjoy all the rights like other Kenyans? Am I a lesser Kenyan just because I am ill? If I have learning difficulties, how does that make me a bad or poor husband such that I do not qualify to enjoy the institution of marriage?