Radicalisation to terrorism in Kenya and Uganda: a political socialisation perspective
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Africa is increasingly being classified as the new battleground against terrorism. Yet, despite this renewed interest, countries on the continent have been experiencing manifestations of this threat already for several decades. Similar to most countries in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe, countries on the African continent focus on addressing the symptoms and not the cause of terrorism. In addressing the manifestations of terrorism, countries directly affected by acts of terrorism predominantly adopted a security-centric approach in an attempt to bring an end to the violence. Although this might be effective in the short term, in the majority of cases, a security-centric approach has proven to be ineffective and often even counterproductive. Realising this, several scholars—and, since 2006, also the United Nations in its Global Counterterrorism Strategy—have called for addressing the underlying reasons, or conditions conducive to terrorism. Despite this positive shift in focus, governments on the African continent continue to refer to outdated lessons learned from other countries, mostly on other continents, when formulating their own counter-terrorism (CT) strategy. Learning from the experiences of others is necessary, yet foreign CT lessons often tend to be broad and general and, as a result, ineffective. Policy makers and practitioners tend to fall into the trap of framing counter strategies on what are assumed to be the underlying driving factors instead of actually conducting empirical research into the ‘real reasons’. It is from this premise that interviews were conducted with 285 individuals and family members associated with al-Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) in Kenya and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda in an attempt to find empirical evidence to support or discard what are perceived to be the root causes of recruitment into these four militant organisations. The resulting doctoral dissertation has as its most important lesson: countering and preventing terrorism should start with looking at the ‘who’ in addition to asking ‘why’. This article is a summary of the main research findings capturing the personal backgrounds of respondents representing the four organisations. Specific reference will be made to early childhood, the school and friends as socialisation agents in establishing ethnic and religious identity. The analysis concludes by describing the influence of these factors on radicalisation associated with external—most notably, economic, educational and political—circumstances in identifying the most critical factor driving radicalisation.