Regional efforts key for preventing and responding to violent extremism in the East and Horn of Africa

Aug 29, 2016

Delegates from the East and Horn of Africa convened in Kampala for the Inter Government Authority of Development (IGAD) Uganda national consultations on preventing and responding to violent extremism. The consultations were opened by Hon. Obiga Kania, Uganda’s Minister for Internal Affairs (seated, fourth from the right), next to him is Ms. Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative on the left and on the right is Amb. Kazuaki Kameda, Japan’s Ambassador to Uganda. (Photo credit: UNDP Uganda 2016).

Kampala - Delegates from eight countries in the East and Horn of Africa have agreed that regional efforts are key for preventing and responding to violent extremism in the region.

This was agreed on during the Inter Government Authority of Development (IGAD) national consultations for Uganda which were focused on developing a regional strategy on prevention and countering violent extremism.

“Violent extremism is one of the most heinous crimes increasing, not only in the region, but also in the world. Violent extremism is a threat to humanity and the world,” Ugandan Minister for Internal Affairs, Obiga Kania, said while opening the conference at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on August 25-16, 2016.

The consultation organised by (IGAD) with support from the government of Japan and the United National Development Programme (UNDP), was attended by delegates from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.

“We have tried to disrupt the extremist from their sources; we have succeeded in some and failed in some. We have tried to pursue them but they are in many places and you cannot pursue them everywhere,” Mr Kania explained, referring in the Government of Uganda approaches to the problem.

As such, the minister said, a regional strategy which feeds into the national strategies of the countries in the East and Horn of African was a sure way of combating the problem. He said the academic, judiciaries, diplomats, law enforcers and the political leaders and empowered communities need to contribute to the strategy.

Ms. Rosa Malango, the United Nations Resident Coordinator as well as the UNDP Resident Representative agreed with the minister saying that the growth of violent extremism over the years, makes its countering and indeed prevention, everyone’s business.

“At UNDP and the UN, we recognize that while the battle for violent extremism needs to be won at the local and national level it requires a regional response to be sustained,” Ms Malango observed.

She said Africa needs to tackle the challenge of youthful population, most of whom lack jobs to earn a living. “Youth in Uganda, account for about 70% of the population according to recent census figures. Failure to engage them constructively leaves them vulnerable to many risks including recruitment to violent extremism,” Ms Malango noted.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda also pointed at the 2010 twin bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village in Kampala which left about 74 people dead, and for which Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, as some of the incidents that illustrate the extent of this risk.

Ms. Malango noted that violent extremism not only threatens security, but the pursuit of development too, pointing out the Westgate attack in Nairobi in 2013 which led to a 25% drop in Kenya’s tourism as an example.

The Ambassador of Japan to Uganda, Mr. Kazuaki Kameda said acts of violent extremism are witnessed almost on a daily basis in the world. “The spread of extremism and terrorism undermines world peace and efforts for economic growth,” Ambassador Kameda stated.

“Violent extremism has an international character and requires a regional approach,” he added.

The envoy said this was the reason that the Government of Japan provided $250,000 toward the development of the regional strategy to address the root causes of violent extremism within the IGAD region.

Dr. Simon Nyambura, the IGAD Coordinator for P/CVE Programmes said this comprehensive strategy will offer an effective framework that will help guide regional actions, activities, programmes and allocation of resources.

“It will ensure and facilitate sound coherence in cooperation, coordination and collaboration in designing as well as implementing national and regional approaches that will respond to the threat posed by extremist groups in the region,” Dr. Nyambura noted.

The two day meeting in Kampala follows similar meeting which were held in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.

One of the key outcomes of the national consultations in Uganda was the request by the government to support the drafting of a national prevention and countering violent extremism strategy for the country which will feed into the regional and global strategies on the same.

UNDP’s support to IGAD is part of the recently-launched, four-year USD 65.7 million initiative Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach that aims to address the root causes and enabling factors of violent extremism.

The regional programme works with regional and national institutions, including government, police and the criminal justice system; religious institutions; and communities to build trust, identify early warning signs of radicalisation and potential violent extremism, and design appropriate responses. The programme is also in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

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