As the Al Shabaab militant group continues to lose territory in Somalia, civil society organizations are taking the mantle to de-radicalize defectors. These efforts by civil society are erasing radical ideologies from the militants’ minds as they help them readjust back into society.
The Somalia National Army and AMISOM forces have captured thousands of Al Shabaab militants during raids and averted attacks. Most of these captured militants are young men suspected to be less than 18 years. Their tender ages make it difficult to prosecute them in court which leads civil societies to establish programs to help them in other ways.
Studies had revealed that young militants had been introduced to a new curriculum that changed their way of thinking and engaging with “the enemy”. With this information, programs and trainings were geared to engage the minds and hearts of combatants to develop new ideologies of coexistence and peace. In these programs, the young minds are actively engaged in mental de-radicalization processes consisting of formal education, sports, and cultural programs.
The programs have been able to train and re-educate over 600 former child soldiers from the Al Shabaab. The children who have gone through these programs have dissociated from radical ideologies, beliefs, and practices. The programs are also working with rural Somali communities, to help them accept former combatants and help them readjust back to society without stigma or fear.
The rights and freedoms of children have long been abused by the Al Shabaab militia group, forcing them to commit violent atrocities. De-radicalization programs are giving a second chance to former child soldiers whether forcefully or voluntarily recruited. These programs are also working with at-risk youths to mitigate the risks of them joining Al Shabaab.