Understanding the narratives and counter narratives to violent extremism dominated the better part of the discussions during the 2018 Youth In Action, the 3rd Regional Youth Forum on Peacebuilding held from 3rd to 8th September 2018 in Machakos County, Kenya.
Youth leaders partcipating in the forum were challenged to understand the meaning radicalisation and to distinguish radicalisation from violent extremism. Some youth in the forum argued that radicalisation is neither bad nor good as it depends on the circumstances and situations surrounding the process. Another group however, argued that radicalisation is bad as it comes with social, economic, and political destruction leading to destabilisation of a country.
Mr. Michael Adikwu, a Peace and Development worker facilitating sessions during the forum, debunked the radicalisation ideology saying that it is first important to build our own youth identities.
“When we don’t have strong self-identities we are vulnerable to embrace violent extremism. It is imperative to build a balance identity so as to counter violent extremism”, he said. He further stated that a balanced identity was key in countering violent extremism.
Mr. Adikwu further encouraged the youth leaders to reflect on their identities and the identities of those who commit violent extremist acts, and see what they can learn regarding the role of personal and community identitied in preventing violent extremism.
Speaking as a Christian scholar, Ms. Nyambura Mundia, a Gender and Peace expert, argued that radicalisation was dependant on the period when an idea was preached. She stated, “It is difficult for a single situation to push an individual to adopt violent extremism. It is rather a series of events and situations that pushes an individual towards adopting violent extremism narratives.”
As a seasoned Muslim scholar, Shk. Ramadhan Aula, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Conflict Resolution (CSCR, told the youth that violent extremists use an ‘US’ vs. ‘THEM’ narrative to advance their ill concieved agenda. He noted that such extremists justify their narratives by misusing religious concepts and scriptures. “When they (violent extremists) want to recruit you, they use the ‘Divide and Rule’ principle to radicalise you,” said Shk. Aula.
The common conclusion was that it is imperative to develop counter narratives which are peace oriented. These counter narratives can be interfaith and interethnic narratives that will challenge the common narratives that challenges peace in communities. There is need to also develop religious and ideological counter narratives. Such counter narratives can only be successful when genuine dialogue is part of the process.