Despite a history of extremism and unconventional political developments in Kenya, relatively little empirical research has been done to determine why and how individuals join al-Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC). This paper is based on interviews with Kenyan and Somali-Kenyan individuals associated with al-Shabaab and the MRC. These organisations have very different profiles. Al-Shabaab pursues an Islamist terrorist agenda while the MRC pursues a secessionist agenda; the latter has not carried out terrorist attacks. Muslim youth have joined extremist groups as a counter-reaction to what they see as government-imposed ‘collective punishment’ driven by the misguided perception that all Somali and Kenyan-Somali nationals are potential terrorists. As long as Kenyan citizens exclusively identify with an ethnic/ religious identity that is perceived to be under threat, radicalisation will increase.
A similar study was conducted in Somalia and the results have been published here.
About the author
Anneli Botha has been a senior researcher on terrorism at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria since 2003. After completing an honours degree in international politics she joined the South African Police Service’s Crime Intelligence Unit in 1993, focusing, among other things, on terrorism and religious extremism. She has a master’s degree in political studies from the University of Johannesburg and a PhD from the University of the Free State. Her specific areas of interest are counter-terrorism strategies and the underlying causes of terrorism and radicalisation.
Media coverage of this Paper:
The Star (Kenya)