Beyond Mombasa: Rethinking counter-radicalisation in Kenya

Nairobi central business district,Kenya. photo courtesy
Nairobi central business district,Kenya.
photo courtesy

By Alex Waterman & Robert Forster

The sectarian element of al-Shabaab’s raids in Kenya in 2014 and a growing trend of radicalisation among Mombasa’s youth raise the question of how Kenyatta’s government will tackle the roots of radicalisation. Recent fast-tracked reforms indicate further centralisation of power in the hands of the Jubilee administration to the possible detriment of reconciliation with Kenya’s marginalised Muslim minority.

Sporadic attacks across Kenya left over 310 dead between January and November 2014. This violence peaked in November when the Somali insurgent group, al-Shabaab, conducted a series of cross-border raids into Kenya’s North East Province. The situation further deteriorated in late 2014 following a flair-up of tribal conflicts and general banditry in Turkana in the northwest, in addition to civil unrest following security raids on a number of mosques in the southern port city of Mombasa. In the face of immense public pressure, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a speech on 2 December 2014 reaffirming the commitment of the Jubilee coalition (2) to fighting terrorism and responding to Kenya’s insecurity dilemma.(3) This speech was followed by a string of hasty reforms aimed at increasing the capabilities of national security. However, these reforms may be detrimental to further reconciliation with Kenya’s Muslim-minority as implementation thereof includes the risk that human rights will be sidelined and power further centralised in Nairobi.