Islamist violent extremism and the fragile African state: the case in Kenya
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What we know, and how we know about state fragility, Islamist violent extremism (IVE), and countering Islamist violent extremism (CIVE), is fiercely contested. It is no different in the case of state fragility, IVE, and CIVE, in the context of Kenya. The research aim was therefore to critically examine the relationship between state fragility, IVE, and CIVE (the case), in Kenya (the context). The Fragile States Index (FSI) was used as an analytical measuring instrument of state fragility. The research design is an explanatory, single-embedded, longitudinal, and contextualised case study, enabling a theory-based, empirical, retroductive, and deductive-inductive analysis. Three purposeful and snowball sampling-based research methods (elite interviews, field research, and a literature and data study) enabled triangulation within and between data sources. Kenya, as a veritable setting, was purposefully selected for being representative of the case. State fragility is defined by underperformance, misperformance, insecurity, violence (structural, direct, and cultural), fault-lines, and institutional failure at macro, meso, and micro levels of the state. The properties of state fragility, inclusive of the social structures that subsist in the fragile state, have causal capacity and tendency, providing not only the context and opportunity for, but actively generating Islamist violent extremism and impediments to CIVE, hence the failure of CIVE. The conduct of IVE and CIVE, in turn, help to compound state fragility. The combined observable outcome in Kenya are the persistent insecurity dilemma, the fragility trap, and the conflict trap. True to the new-wars paradigm and entangling a congeries of state and non-state actors, IVE and CIVE are a mixture of ‘war, crime, and human rights abuses’, which both add division and deepen division in an already divided society. True to its intractable nature, the long-war in Kenya will not be won by hard power. Much rather, it may be resolved by a negotiated social contract founded on inclusive social structures, institutions, norms, and values. In placing the fragile African state, in this case Kenya, at the centre of the discourse on state fragility, IVE and CIVE, the study makes a significant and original scientific contribution. It reveals the debilitating and conflict-generating properties of state fragility that initiate the causal chain that yield both IVE and impediments to CIVE. CIVE must therefore first account for and weigh the conditions and constraints created by state fragility. The study has also exposed the dangers of ineffective and counterproductive CIVE that privilege regime survival and bolstering state institutions over social cohesion and state legitimacy. Kenya reveals causal sequences (with causal patterns and causal mechanisms) that shed light on similar contexts in sub-Saharan Africa. This is greatly significant given the growing levels of state fragility and Islamist violent extremism, and the persistent challenges of CIVE in this subregion.