ICG argues that the militant al-Shabaab movement has built a cross-border presence and a clandestine support network among Muslim populations in the northeast, Nairobi and along the Swahili coast. It is trying to radicalize and recruit youth from these communities, often capitalizing on long-standing grievances against the national government. This problem could grow more severe with the October 2011 intervention into Somalia by Kenyan military forces.
Radicalization is a grave threat to Kenya's security and stability. It would be a mistake, however, to respond to the challenge solely through a counterterrorism strategy.
The ICG proposes the following Kenyan government response:
- Recognize that a blanket or draconian crackdown on Kenyan Somalis, or Kenyan Muslims in general, would radicalize more individuals and add to the threat of domestic terrorism.
- Although there is a link between radicalization and terrorism,countertrerrorism tactics aimed only at stopping al-Shabaab and other militant groups should not become the only official response.
- Allocate additional developmental resources to North Eastern Province.
- Study madrases, perhaps through a local university, to learn which are most radical and influential, both to better understand the problem of radicalization and to moderate extremist teachings; create a Muslim Advisory Council of respected leaders, open to hardliners, but representing all Kenyan Muslims.
- Develop a process, with community input, for selection of a Grand Mufti in Kenya.