The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) has conducted a workshop in Rwanda to tackle youth radicalisation in East Africa. The event brought together 47 participants from African countries, the United States, Europe, and civil society groups to explore solutions to the challenge.
The weeklong workshop’s opening ceremonies were held on January 23, in Kigali, Rwanda. Attendees developed plans for a regional network of youth organisations to counter radicalisation and considered how best to address the problem during presentations and panel discussions.
Attendees included 27 government representatives from 11 African nations, ten participants from African civil society groups, nine US government representatives, and one UK government delegate. East African youth leaders made up the workshop’s primary civil society participants and guest speakers.
During his opening remarks, Karl E Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, said there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to countering youth radicalisation in Africa. He said the key to solving the problem would be found in people reaching across borders to work together.
“There is ample room for African nations to work together among themselves and with international partners in specific ways that all recognize as necessary and valuable,” Wycoff said. “After all, the terrorists and those who promote violent extremism act regionally and globally.”
The workshop’s opening speeches included remarks from a number of notable officials concerned with extremism taking root among young Africans. Ambassador William M Bellamy, ACSS Director; HE Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, African Union Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission for Somalia; General Carter F Ham, US Africom Commander; and The Honorable Jean Philibert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth, all spoke about the importance of engaging young Africans to counter extremism.
Workshop attendees assessed the political, socioeconomic, and cultural drivers that enable violent extremists to recruit new members, find community support, and operate in East Africa. Recommendations coming from the workshop will include ideas from young people in attendance and will build on contemporary approaches that consider limited resources on the continent.
Wycoff said that traditional defence and security-sector approaches are not going to counter the allure of extremist groups looking to recruit young Africans.
“Military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement alone will not solve the long-term challenges we face, the challenges that push and pull young people around the world toward violent extremism,” he said. “More force is not going to prevent young men and women from embracing violence as a solution to political and social problems. They need viable alternatives to channel their frustrations, satisfy their ambitions and to challenge injustices using peaceful means. A lot more work remains to be done, and this is where we are now focusing much of our effort.”
Over the past 13 years, more than 4 500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programmes.