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July 6, 2021

Violent extremism devastating Africa

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The rise of organized, heavily armed, non-state actors have threatened Africa’s achievement, aspiration and civilian security across the continent. These organized terrorist networks justify violence and territorial ambitions with religious ideologies. I.e. groups like al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the LRA threaten Africa’s economic growth, women’s rights and children’s education.

Sadly, most violent extremist acts are linked to misconstrued religious beliefs. Many violent extremists harness religious claims to hide their moral corruption and inspire sympathizers. Boko Haram abducts young girls who want to learn. The Lord’s Resistance Army enslaves children to carry out atrocities. Al-Shabaab terrorist organization commits attacks in Somalia and has been linked with a number of attacks in Kenya. All these organizations misinterpret different religious contexts to suit their agenda.

Terrorism robs young people of their lives and opportunities. The damage brought about by violent extremists is measured not only in the blood they spill, but the investments they deter, the education they deprive of children, the women and girls they enslave and the vast human potential they squander. In Somalia, for example, Al-Shabaab has killed at least 4,000 civilians from 2010-2019.

The rising violence of Islamist extremists has brought about a strong response from security actors in East Africa led by AMISOM. AMISOM has been extensively active in intensifying operations in Somalia, targeting supply routes blocked by the al-Qaeda linked group Al-Shabaab, and has been successful in capturing many militants. The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) and the Somali National Army (SNA) are working together with foreign security forces to ensure Al-Shabaab influence is stamped out.

When communities come together for a common purpose, violent extremist organizations struggle to infiltrate. Community policing can be used in developing and maintaining trusting relationships hence essential to preventing crime, ideological radicalization, and violent extremism.