Community Perceptions of Violent Extremism in Kenya
A range of political, security and developmental responses has been elicited by the emergence of various armed ‘extremist’ groups in the Greater Horn of Africa. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), a developmental approach to counterterrorism, seeking to address the social and political ‘root causes’ of violent extremism, has gained particular prominence in Kenya. This report reviews current academic and policy-based discourse around CVE within the larger context of human security. The results presented, displays community perceptions of violent extremism based on extensive consultations in four sizeable Muslim-majority urban communities in Kenya: Eastleigh and Majengo in Nairobi, Majengo in Mombasa, and Garissa. Communities in these locations have been targeted both for recruitment by armed extremist groups like al-Shabaab and for CVE programming by the Kenyan government and local and international civil society. The results of this study underscore considerable discrepancies between dominant narratives around violent extremism present in policy and academic arenas, and the lived experiences of those in communities affected by violent extremism and targeted by government and civil society organisations for CVE interventions. Violent extremism was notably cited as just one among several perceived sources of insecurity. Others included criminal gangs, oppressive security forces, poverty and unemployment. These come together to create a complex web of drivers of insecurity which often tend to be mutually reinforcing. This suggests that a purely CVE-driven response to insecurity may obfuscate persistent structural or socio-economic issues to which violent extremism may be incidental or secondary.