TERRORISM

WENDO DENNIS: Human rights approach key to taming violent extremism

A majority of those falling prey to extremism are the youths; irrespective of religion, tribe or race

In Summary

• A majority of victims that have ended up being radicalised and recruited into extremist groups have shown interest in surrendering and going back to normal community life.

• The human-rights approach encourages social dialogue with the rights to empower citizens, state and non-state actors as well as strengthening the capacity of duty bearers without causing collateral damages.

The threat of terrorism is a global concern and Kenya remains a victim from the 1980 Norfolk hotel, 1998 US Embassy, 2002 Kikambala hotel bombings to the 2013 Westgate Mall attack.

Others are the 2014 Mpeketoni, the 2015 Garissa University and the 2019 Nairobi Dusit D2 complex attacks.

The aftermath caused the death of innocent citizens, social-economic setbacks and fear of the unknown to potential investors.

Within and out of the region, the attacks have been associated with terror groups, with insurgencies like al Shabaab, al Qaeda, al Fatar, ISIL and Boko Haram claiming responsibility.

Terrorism and violent extremism are mostly employed interchangeably, with the latter being regarded broader than terrorism.  

Violent extremism, to a larger extent, is shaped by the activities of terrorists, which spread messages of hate and violence as well as religious, cultural and social intolerance.

Groups engaged often distort and exploit religious beliefs, ethnic differences and political ideologies to legitimise their actions as well as to recruit and retain their followers.

On the other hand, radicalisation is the process by which individuals adopt violent extremist ideologies that lead them to commit terrorist acts, or which are likely to render them more vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist organisations.

A majority of those falling prey to the above are the youths irrespective of religion, tribe or race.

It is important to understand the push and pull into radicalisation and violent extremism as we address the challenge.

The catalysts are not static and often range from lack of access to justice, human rights violation, economic factors for financial gains, lack of land and political suppression.

The majority of victims that have ended up being radicalised and recruited into extremist groups have shown interest in surrendering and going back to normal community life.

The fear has been security, acceptance without victimisation and intimidations as well as economic sustainability for their livelihoods.

In combating this, state agencies and key players need to move away from a hard-based approach in accepting voluntary returnees.

It is the utmost obligation of state authorities, including police, to respect and protect the right to life. The law enforcers should only use lethal force as a last resort. 

Many killings by the police as witnessed do not meet this criterion. Impunity for killings by police often leads to a deadly cycle of various forms of violence, radicalisation and extremism included.

All governments have a duty to incorporate international human rights law into their domestic legislation, but many have failed to do this adequately.

The human rights approach encourages social dialogue with the rights to empower citizens, state and non-state actors as well as strengthening the capacity of duty bearers without causing collateral damage.

It focuses on participation, accountability, non-discrimination and equality, empowerment and legal structures to design for a win-win situation.

The current multi-sectoral efforts in preventing and countering radicalisation and violent extremism to human rights by the office of Director of Public Prosecutions, National Counter-Terrorism Centre and Haki Africa are commendable and deserve full support from the government and social partners alike.

Their approach emphasises on inclusivity of public participation, civil societies and government agencies for a seamless and soft approach to ensure access to justice, adherence to human rights procedures and social security to actors.

This has yielded a reduction of close to 60 per cent in human rights abuses and violations by police in the coastal region of Kenya in the recent past.

This approach should be replicated in the 47 counties to save many that are victims of the cases.

Wendo is the founder of the Integrated Development Network

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris