Community-Based Strategies in Countering Violent Extremism: Specific Options for Citizen Action in Nigeria – Part III
Not an exhaustive document of CVE activities, this paper in four parts explores community-based initiatives being implemented around the world, with focus placed on Australia, Kenya, and the United States, as they represent different challenges. This paper does not provide analysis regarding political or military strategy within Nigeria, the region, or other countries. It does not profess to provide all of the solutions to countering violent extremism in Nigeria and the region. The purpose of this paper is to be a framework to foster dialogue regarding various ways in which local citizens, religious institutions, and NGOs can address violent extremism.
Examples of Community-Based Strategies in CVE:
Youth and Reintegration
The primary purpose of this paper is to glean global examples of strategies in countering violent extremism (CVE) for the purpose of discussion that could lead to improved policies and initiatives to address CVE in Nigeria and its surrounding countries. The first part provided a brief overview of CVE and regional contexts of Australia, Kenya and the Horn of Africa, and the United States. Part Two provided examples of strategies to assist in countering violent extremism through education and community engagement. Part Three offers additional examples of strategies being implemented in each geographic region.
The overall goal of the article in four parts is to foster dialogue around strategies that could be used to counter the violent acts of terrorism deployed in the name of Islam in Nigeria. The following are examples of community-based strategies CVE that focus on countering the various narratives that affect acts of terrorism.
As previously stated, the strategies and examples in CVE are unique to the location, as each country or region experiences different challenges, and support systems vary. The following official and unofficial strategies were gathered from desk research.
An official CVE strategy is one that is created, and implemented or funded, by a governmental initiative to counter violent extremism. An unofficial CVE strategy is a program being implemented by a community organization or other private entity that can indirectly serve the purpose of CVE, without being an initiative established for such purpose. Also, although not explicitly stated in each strategy, it is implied that racial, gender, and class equity, as well as the inclusion of youth, should also be employed in the following strategies.
Addressing Youth and Reintegration
The primary purpose of Part 3 is to identify practical examples of community-based initiatives in countering violent extremism (CVE) from other countries/regions for discussion regarding its applicability in the Nigerian context.
A July 2011 UN report suggested that poor marginalized youth are targeted. They are offered a “compelling worldview” and a small stipend with the potential for more. It is well-known that leaders of terrorism entities often belong to a higher social class than their followers. And while abject poverty does play a factor in why some people may support a terrorist group, more people become radicalized by a specific individual or narrative.
Occasionally policy-makers theorize, and violent extremists cite, that horrendous acts of violence are committed as a result of poverty and social exclusion. This should never be considered a sole factor. Although that claim should not be dismissed, many people under the same social conditions and from the same communities do not perpetrate acts of violence.
However, since poverty can be a factor, the following initiatives address basic needs and reintegration of youth, and former prisoners and combatants who are at most risk of becoming radicalized.
Strategy A: Provide Mentoring and Workforce Development for the Formerly Incarcerated
“Just because you’ve changed don’t mean other people have…These brothers have to go back into their environment from which they came … If they don’t have the circle of brothers, how can they learn to maneuver through it?” [i]
Rafi Peterson, Project Restore
These initiatives were not established as CVE strategies, but support the reintegration of the formerly incarcerated.
Strategy A/Example 1:
The United States-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network’s Green ReEntry initiative supports formerly incarcerated individuals facing barriers to employment. Through Green ReEntry, IMAN provides transitional housing, life skills support, construction certification, and on-the-training in the field of green construction for formerly incarcerated men. Men who successfully complete the program have received a specific level in construction and have earned a nationally recognized certification that can assist them attaining and maintaining employment beyond the program.
Strategy A/Example 2:
The United Kingdom-based program, Mosaic trains mentors to work with former incarcerated individuals. These individuals become a friend and critical resource in assisting incarcerated individuals in establishing and reaching goals as they transition from prison. This support is critical in reducing the number of people who return to prison after committing a crime, or become radicalized as a result of further marginalization in society after leaving incarceration.
Strategy B: Youth Development Initiatives
In April 2015, the Kenyan Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery offered amnesty and reintegration to youth who had left the country to join Al-Shabaab:
“The Government hereby calls upon all individuals who had gone to Somalia for training and wish to disassociate themselves with terrorism to report to the National government offices” [ii]
Strategy B/Example 1:
The Kenyan Muslim Youth Alliance (KMYA) “is an independent not for profit national youth network founded in November 2003, with a mandate to empower young Muslims through constructive engagement and participation in nurturing democratic, healthy, peaceful and just societies for all. KMYA’s goals are accomplished through capacity-building, networking, dialogue, research and communication, health-related programs, information sharing and advocacy.”
KMYA engages with the Kenyan government and other entities to empower youth to speak out against radical ideologies that could lead to violence [iii].
Strategy B/Example 2:
Undugu Society of Kenya provides multiple services for youth street children in Kenya, such as community empowerment, lobbying and advocacy, and social reintegration. The organization’s Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration uses a rehabilitation approach that aims to transform and empower existing grouping of children and youth gangs living on the streets. Undugu works with several community partners which include, the police administration, organizations that address child prostitution and drug abuse, as well as other child rights organizations.
Strategy B/Example 3:
The Australian Muslim Youth Leadership and Peer Mentorship program, was an initiative of the Australian Multicultural Foundation , funded by the Australian Government. The program aimed to engage with Muslim youth who have been identified by Imams, community leaders and Muslim Youth Leaders as being at risk of radicalization. Through the program, and with the support of Imams and Muslim Youth Leaders as mentors, these young people will develop an understanding of their religious identity through true principles of Islam—as opposed to violent extremist ideology. The participants will receive training to develop their skills, self-esteem and knowledge to enable them to engage in volunteer activity within both their local and the broader community.
Specifically, community-based youth mentoring programs were funded to provide training in social and political skills, in addition to mentoring. In 2011 and 2012, the government supported nine youth projects with the purpose of creating an opportunity for Muslim youth to engage constructively with the political system and the media, and give them a sense of purpose and hope to affect change that would steer them away from extremism.
The program objectives were to:
• Connect with at-risk young Australian Muslims to reduce their sense of alienation and frustration;
• Establish alternative narratives that challenge and refute extremist ideologies;
• Create opportunities for participants to confidently engage with the broader community;
• Provide opportunities to develop leaders among Muslim youth
• Develop skills to identify and mentor other at-risk Australian Muslim youth;
• Develop media and communication skills to undertake public speaking engagements with the aim of increasing public awareness of Islam and dispelling myths and misconceptions about Muslims;
• Develop a framework and proposal for a national event focusing on youth issues for Muslims and non-Muslims;
• Expand networks through membership to the AMF Muslim Youth Alumni.
Strategy B/Example 4:
The UK-based program Mosaic provides critical support to youth through their mentoring program. The program provides support to youth who are the most socially deprived in the country. Volunteer mentors act as role models, and support the youth in attaining specified goals.
To come :
Part 4 | Examples of Community-Based Strategies in CVE: “Nigeria, now what?”
The next section will address the current situation in Nigeria, current strategies to counter violent extremism in the country, and the applicability of some the strategies from this article.
[i] Brachear, M.A. (August 27, 2010). Re-entry Program Gives Muslim Second, Green Chance. Chicago Tribune, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-08-27/news/ct-met-green-reentry-muslims-0827-20100827_1_muslim-converts-muslim-community-african-american-muslims
[ii] Ombati, C. (April 14, 2015) Kenya announces amnesty and reintegration to youth who denounce Al-Shabaab, Standard Digital, http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000158358/kenya-announces-amnesty-and-reintegration-to-youth-who-denounce-al-shabaab?articleID=2000158358&story_title=kenya-announces-amnesty-and-reintegration-to-youth-who-denounce-al-shabaab&pageNo=1
[iii] Finn Church Aid- Act Alliance. (August 25, 2015). Youth dialogue in Kenya to prevent violent extremism. https://www.kirkonulkomaanapu.fi/en/latest-news/articles/youth-dialogue-in-kenya-on-preventing-violent-extremism/
Source de la photo: http://www.kenyamuslims.org/