Monday, March 31, 2014

Arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youth perpetuates insecurity and terrorism

The recent terror attacks in Kenya are always followed by arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youths,  most of whom are not linked to any terror group. These raids and arrests only fuel hatred towards the police service and the government which has the counter effect of promoting extremism that can create a breeding ground for terrorist groups to recruit such disgruntled and often unemployed youth.

Recently in Mombasa, Kenya, the police raided a mosque in Likoni and arrested hundreds of youth, and one of the youth has 'vanished' up to now. Just a week ago, police in Nairobi arrested several youth and charged about 40 of them with loitering charges. Two of the youth arrested were innocent hardworking youth who have previously volunteered with me on a project to provide economic opportunities for unemployed youth. There are reports in the Kenyan media that police raided student hostels in Eastleigh area in Nairobi last night at 2 a.m and harassed innocent youth, arguably on trying to 'chase' terrorists. How is this really related to unraveling the real people behind terrorism?

 According to the United Nations report: Uniting Against Terrorism - recommendations for a global counter-terrorism, released in April 2008, the effectiveness of counter-terrorism initiatives depends largely on the level of cooperation between government forces and local communities. When explaining the influence of counter-terrorism strategies on conditions that are conducive to terrorism, Kofi Annan stated: Past cases show that Governments that resort to excessive use of force and indiscriminate repression when countering terrorism risk strengthening the support base for terrorists among the general population. Such measures generally invite counter-violence, undermine the legitimacy of counter-terrorism measures and play into the hands of terrorists. 
Political factors have pushed Muslim youths to join extremist groups as a counter-reaction to or in retaliation against what they see as ‘collective punishment’ driven by a misguided perception around the world, Kenya included, that all Muslims are terrorists or potential terrorists. Since the anti-terrorist campaign began in Kenya following the US embassy bombings in 1998, many Muslim youths have been arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated on suspicion of being engaged in terrorist activities, which is part of a wider pattern that intensified after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001.

Increasingly, governments in Africa are ignoring the real issues affecting youth- unemployment and poverty-and and in fact encouraging anger and hatred among such youth who are already burdened with lack of basic needs and services.

Fighting insecurity and terrorism requires efforts from all people including citizens of any country and whenever citizens do not trust their government and the police, community policing will fail and in fact unemployed and poor youth will be lured into terror groups. Governments should increase their intelligence but also focus on more people friendly policies that will make every citizen a partner in the fight against violent extremism.

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