The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) held opening ceremonies on Monday, January 23, 2012, in Kigali, Rwanda, for its weeklong workshop on preventing youth radicalization in East Africa. The event brings together 47 participants from African countries, the United States, Europe, and civil society groups to explore solutions to the challenge. Attendees are developing plans for a regional network of youth organizations to counter radicalization and considering how best to address the problem during presentations and panel discussions.
Attendees include 27 government representatives from 11 African nations, 10 participants from African civil society groups, 9 U.S. government representatives, and 1 U.K. government delegate. East African youth leaders make up the workshop’s primary civil society participants and guest speakers.
During his opening remarks, Karl E. Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, said there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to countering youth radicalization in Africa. He said the key to solving the problem would be found in people reaching across borders to work together.
“There is ample room for African nations to work together among themselves and with international partners in specific ways that all recognize as necessary and valuable,” Wycoff said. “After all, the terrorists and those who promote violent extremism act regionally and globally.”
The workshop’s opening speeches included remarks from a number of notable officials concerned with extremism taking root among young Africans. Ambassador William M. Bellamy, ACSS Director; H.E. Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, African Union Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission for Somalia; General Carter F. Ham, U.S. AFRICOM Commander; and The Honorable Jean Philibert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth, all spoke about the importance of engaging young Africans to counter extremism.
Workshop attendees are assessing the political, socioeconomic, and cultural drivers that enable violent extremists to recruit new members, find community support, and operate in East Africa. Recommendations coming from the workshop will include ideas from young people in attendance and will build on contemporary approaches that consider limited resources on the continent.
Wycoff said that traditional defense and security-sector approaches are not going to counter the allure of extremist groups looking to recruit young Africans.
“Military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement alone will not solve the long-term challenges we face, the challenges that push and pull young people around the world toward violent extremism,” he said. “More force is not going to prevent young men and women from embracing violence as a solution to political and social problems. They need viable alternatives to channel their frustrations, satisfy their ambitions and to challenge injustices using peaceful means. A lot more work remains to be done, and this is where we are now focusing much of our effort.”
ACSS is the pre-eminent institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 13 years, more than 4,500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.