A Nairobi based NGO Youth, Arts, Development and Entrepreneurship Network (YADEN) has launched a programme to engage the youth in countering violence extremism in the wake of homegrown terrorists in the country.
Speaking after meeting stakeholders from Garissa County at a local hotel, YADEN director Sammy Gathii said it’s now evident that the youth are most vulnerable and often ignored by both the county and national government in major decision making.
“This is a very dangerous way of addressing violent extremism. If we fail to engage the youth then the whole purpose of fighting terrorism could be lost,” Gathii said.
The program that covers 10 coastal and North Eastern Counties is aimed at creating partnership between national, county and community youth grassroots programs on prevention of violent extremism.
The objectives is also to bring on board youth at the grassroots in preventing counter terrorism information and knowledge, package it into viable resource and link to inform higher level of state and non-state interventions.
Gathii said the program dubbed ‘Amka’ or ‘wake up’ is to engage youth to rise and take up the responsibility of countering terror.
He added that idle youth can easily be lured into dangerous criminal activities including terrorism.
“Youth are the majority in this country and have different talents that can be exploited for their benefit but if they are left on their own they can be a security threat. We are therefore launching this program so that they are engaged in meaningful live changing programs,” Gathii said.
“We also want to ensure that the gap between the youth and government, both at county and national level is bridged. Youth should be told opportunities that are available for them so that they exploit them,” he added.
The function was attended by senior officials from both the county and national government who promised to support the initiative.
The counties programme will cover are Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Lamu, Nairobi and Mombasa.
On his part, Garissa County deputy county secretary Abdirashid Mohamed said the county government in partnership with national government will start mapping areas where youth have crossed over the border to ensure they are monitored closely.
Mohamed said the county will also implement recent launched counter violent extremism programs that he noted has elaborate measures on how to counter terrorism in the country.
“We are welcoming all partners involved in the fight against terror to Garissa because we are among the counties that have bore the brunt of terror attacks perpetuated by Somali based Al-Shabaab terror group. The sub-counties most affected are Ijara, Hulugho, Dadaab and Fafi,” he said.
Mohamed challenged NGOs operating in the area to join hands and come up with programmes that can support the youth in terms of trainings, capacity building and entrepreneurship.
He said that as long as a big population of youth remains idle and are not engaged then chances of such individuals falling into prey of bad groups will remain real.
The deputy secretary said the county will soon commission an assessment to ascertain the exact number of youth missing as well as engage the religious leaders and community elders to make sure that every household accounts for people who have left their households.
“This mapping exercise will help us know if our missing youth are with bad elements. It is at this point that we will chart the way forward based on the report we will receive,” he noted.
The launch comes days after suspected Al-Shabaab militants tried to overrun a Chinese construction site in Shimbirey, about 50 kms from Garissa town and the attack on Riverside complex that left 21 people dead.
By Jacob Songok