This week marks the 20th Anniversary of the August 7th 1998 Nairobi- Dar Es Salaam Bomb blast – at its time the largest terror attack on African soil. Since then, Africa has lost more than 2000 souls to terror attacks, and has had more than 200,000 people displaced in the Niger – Mali- Nigeria area, as well as in the East African region.
In March of this year, we released the “Building Bridges” report, a report on youth, violent extremism and interfaith engagement. The report was based on a study in Nairobi, Kilifi and Mombasa Counties in Kenya to assess the drivers of violent extremism. According to our research, there are two main driving factors which work together to push young people towards joining extremist groups: poor income opportunities for youth and a growing sense of marginalization that is manifested in consistent religious profiling and stereotyping. In the Building Bridges Report, therefore, we evidenced that the poor economic status of youth and tensions and suspicions between faiths, exacerbated by feelings of political marginalization, combine to create a situation where youth are at risk of recruitment to violent extremist groups.
The YMCA is therefore working to reduce the effects of the drivers towards radicalization by setting up Interfaith Savings and Investment Groups for youth – with the objective of enabling financial inclusion of youth from different faiths. We are also connecting young people in the community to religious and government leaders with the intention of establishing trust between previously discordant groups. We are working with partners from various institutions, as well as with government officials and youth leaders. We call for better concerted efforts in addressing the key challenge of youth marginalisation across the continent.
Our aim is to see an Africa of peace and prosperity, with young people at the driver’s seat of the renaissance of the continent. This will only be possible if the factors that drive young people towards violent extremism are addressed.