Kenya to host regional conference on extremism



Kenya will host a regional conference on countering violent extremism in June, officials said on Friday.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Karanja Kibicho told a media briefing in Nairobi that for the last four weeks, a team has been working towards the preparation of the meeting.

“So far, the government has dispatched invites to 25 African countries and another 16 countries across the world,” Kibicho said during a meeting with foreign envoys.

The forthcoming conference will be held at a time when the global community is facing multiple threats by violent extremists, many acting locally while thinking and gaining resources globally, that are a threat to international peace and security.

In February, the U.S. invited Kenya to attend a summit on countering violent extremism. Kenya was endorsed during the meeting to host the regional consultation in Africa on countering violent extremism.

Kibicho said the three-day event will generate an outcome document that will inform a high level summit that will be held on the sidelines 70th UN General Assembly in September

He added that the meeting will also involve a technical session to look into ways to evolve strategies of how to implement the outcome of the conference.

Kibicho said people who join extremism groups and take advantage of the amnesty will be rehabilitated into the society.

A string of terror attacks in recent months have culminated with the evacuation of tourists following massacre that killed 148 people, including 142 students, in Garissa in northeast Kenya.

Known extremist terrorist group Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, and has been a cell of the Al-Qaida terror network since 2012.

Permanent Secretary for Interior Monica Juma said the meeting will also focus on topologies and drivers of violent extremism.

“We want to understand the local architecture of terror networks as well as the narratives that promote ideologies of violence extremism,” Juma said.

She said Kenya is an anchor state that has taken leadership in engaging the threat of terrorism, noting that the threat of terror is alive and present in Kenya.

She added that radicalization normally starts in safe places such the family and community settings, and the intelligence the government receives is that the recruitment to terror networks could occur in any part of the country.

“So we are keenly watching the whole country, but some regions are more vulnerable due to a variety of factors,” she the PS.

Juma said the government will soon roll out a sensitization program to inform the public on the signs of radicalization. “This will reduce panic and avoid knee jerk reactions that could do more harm and good.”

Juma said last year, Kenya was struggling with a situation where mosques had been taken over by radical Muslim preachers, but the threat of radicalization has now moved to other situations.

Kenya’s Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua said the country is experiencing a growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism due to a variety of factors.

“We share a border of approximately 700 kms with Somalia, where Al-Shabaab bases are located,” Kinyua said, noting that the Al- Shabaab is luring Kenyan youths and using their bases in Somalia to recruit, radicalize, train and plan terrorist attacks against Kenya and the region.

He said the current approaches pursued in countering violent extremism need to be supplemented by enhancing inclusive programs that involve independent researchers, civil society groups, and the private sector.

Kinyua, who is also the Head of Public Service, said the country’s vulnerability is accentuated by expanded democratic nature, which is exploited and appropriated by perpetrators of violent extremism.

“We are also witnessing the growing use of electronic medium to recruit, incite and even train candidates for extremism,” he said.

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