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First Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) Eastern Africa Regional Policy Conference

Theme: Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in the COVID-19 Era
Project Duration:  August – December 2020 
Grantor: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – USA
Contacts: Dr. Nicholas Ozor, Executive Director, ATPS
Contact Email:
Project Director: Dr. Nicholas Ozor
Project Value: USD 13,000

Project Description/Background

The project aims to achieve the following; increased understanding and shared knowledge on preventive efforts of countering violent extremism in Eastern Africa; understanding of the best collaborative approaches in research, policy direction and practical interventions in Eastern Africa; understanding of the capacity gaps and mechanisms for countering and preventing violent extremism in the region; understanding the role of technology (social media) in radicalization and recruitment as well as in combating violent extremism. It is being implemented by the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in partnership with Center for Media Democracy Peace and Security(CMDPS) – Rongo University – Kenya, Women’s International Peace Center(WIPC) Uganda, Institute of Policy Analysis and Research – Rwanda, Addis Ababa University – Ethiopia, The Center for Conflict Management (CCM) University of Rwanda and The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – USA.

As terrorism mutates in Africa, there is need for coordinated efforts at the level of research, policy and practice in order to formulate working regional interventions that put into consideration changing dynamics occasioned by corona virus disease 2019. The latter is rapidly creating an enabling environment for luring and targeting unsuspecting users into radicalization and violent extremism more aggressively owing to the increased level of
exposure and time spent on social media platforms1 in the context of lockdown measures in countries in East Africa. Research and policy direction as well as practical interventions should be re-oriented towards Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) pillars of support and set realistic goals that are going to reduce the impacts of terrorism in East Africa in the short term and counter other systemic and structural factors that are responsible for extremism in the long term.

While terrorism has been a scourge in Eastern African region with Somalia being the hardest hit, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are not strangers to terrorist attacks too as witnessed in the 1998 twin bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam and 2010 Kampala bombings respectively. Kenya has been the worst affected State in East Africa prompting the country to launch a military action in Somalia through Operation Linda Nchi2 to flush out the al-Shabaab terrorists and hopefully reduce the impact of terrorism in Kenya. However, the operation seemed to have compounded the problem in East Africa as terrorists spread their wings across porous borders judging from the surging number of high-profile attacks like Westgate Mall attacks in 2013, Garissa University attacks in 2015, Dusit 2 Mall attacks in 2019 and other active terror threats and violent extremism concerns in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Even though there has not been such heavy attacks and active threats of terrorism in Rwanda, the country has been cautious to this security challenge considering that terrorism is not compounded within specific national boundaries. As rightly put by the Prime Minister of Rwanda during an INTERPOL African regional conference held in Kigali in February 2019, “to stop and prevent terrorism, there is an urgent need for strong cooperation. No single country can alone win this struggle. We need a much stronger regional and international cooperation”. In the same way, terrorism and violent extremism call for proper and coordinated research, policy and practical interventions that seek to understand the ecology of both crimes in individual states in order to not only come up with coordinated response mechanisms, but also build resilience. The conference explored critical issues under the following subthemes:

1. Understanding Violent Extremism in East Africa – Issues, Drivers, Facts and Figures
2. Regional Mechanisms in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Strategies and Policies in Eastern Africa
3. Violent Extremism in the context of COVID-19: Issues, Impacts and Lessons
4. The Place of Technology in Violent Extremism in Africa: Promoting Or Countering?
5. The Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism in Eastern Africa
6. Challenges in preventing/countering terrorism and violent extremism in Africa
7. Religious radicalism and violent extremism in Africa
8. Strengthening Eastern Africa’s capacity for PCVE: Options for the Way Forward

Expected outcomes:
1. Increased understanding and shared knowledge on preventive efforts of countering violent extremism in East Africa
2. Reaching consensus on the best collaborative approaches in research, policy direction and practical interventions in East Africa
3. Analyses of capacities and gaps of existing mechanisms, action plans, institutions and structures for countering and preventing violent extremism in East Africa
4. Underscoring the potential role of technology (social media) in radicalization and recruitment
5. Exploring the use of social media platforms in preventing and countering violent extremism and digital peace building
6. A plan of action for the SVNP annual conference

The conference that was hybrid in nature, lasted for two (2) days. Day One had the keynote address presented on the subject matter and followed by a panel discussion from variety of perspectives. During Day Two of the conference, the various perspectives on Countering violent extremism (CVE) in the COVID era  were harmonized and a high-level policy dialogue used to develop policy and programmatic actions on the way forward in preventing and countering extreme violence and terrorism in Eastern Africa in the COVID era.

The conference was officially opened by Mr. Moffat Kangi, Principal Administrative Secretary Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government who represented Dr. Fred Matiang’i, Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government. The conference also had high level representation from the counterterrorism enterprise including the National Counterterrorism Center, Directorate of Criminal Investigation, National Crime Research Center, Scholars for Universities, Non-Governmental organizations, Science and Technology Institutions, Diplomatic Community (Royal Dutch Embassy, Nigerian High Commission), SVNP members among others.

Project Outputs
FINAL Proceedings Report of the SVNP Eastern Africa Policy Conference on PCVE
SVNP Regional Policy Conference – Concept Note

SVNP Regional Policy Conference Agenda
SVNP Regional Policy Conference Poster

Pictures, Videos and Zoom recordings Links

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