After years of agonizing and somewhat avoiding to confront the problem head-on, the government of Kenya has finally acknowledged what it should have

acknowledged long time ago—that radicalization and religious extremism are the main ingredients of terrorism, and that military weapons and combat tactics cannot be deployed to fight extremism. For the past couple of months, the government has summoned its top security and legal machinery to find appropriate ways of dealing with radicalization. A number of high-level conferences have been convened as a result and well-meaning action plans adopted to deal with religious extremism. The good thing that has come out of these high-level meetings is an acknowledgment by the government that fighting radicalization and religious extremism requires the effort of both government and non-governmental agencies. This is a welcome move. By going to institutions of higher learning and engaging experts and by inviting religious leaders, youth and women groups; and other stakeholders to share experiences and suggest solutions, the government has finally realized that terrorism is much more a social problem than merely a security challenge. In this regard, the government should be encouraged to open up to more public engagement by building more partnerships as it slowly and steadily adopts soft power in this delicate war against terrorism.
In doing so, the government should be genuine and must be seen to be genuine in its engagement with civilian and other civil society organizations.

It should not use such engagement as an opportunity to gain the intelligence it did not have before only to later revert to its militaristic approaches. Given that the government now acknowledges that fighting terrorism requires the input of all well-meaning people, the soft power approach that the government is using should extend to the county governments. We have said many times in this forum that devolved structures now being managed by the county governments can play an important role in enhancing national security— lessons of the  Garrissa university attack should by now have proved beyond reasonable doubt that devolved governments can play a very important role in matters national security. In view of this, the national government should start taking seriously offers from county executives such as Mombasa governor Hassan Joho’s willingness and ability to spearhead anti-radicalization programmes in the Coast region. Such governors should be empowered and supported to play such roles which can certainly make a difference in the war against terrorism.



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