Youth honoured for taking a stand against radicalization, violent extremism

A number of young Kenyans utilizing their special gifts, talents, and abilities to fight terrorism and violent extremism have been recognized for their transformative efforts.

Those recognized used their creativity to come up with short films, poetry, and music to sensitize young people in the country to especially turn a blind eye to radicalization, acts of terror, and numerous other organized crimes.

The award ceremony took place in one of the city hotels at the close of the 5th edition of the annual counter-terrorism competition – Lenga Ugaidi Na Talanta. The gala is organized by the Nairobi-based Non-governmental Organization ‘Epuka Ugaidi.’

Speaking during the ceremony, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) Director Dr. Rosa Nyawira lauded the young people who have embraced the initiative noting that the responsibility of ensuring a peaceful and secure environment for the present and future generation is not only a mandate of the government or its agencies but also a responsibility for everyone in the society.

“The cooperation amongst all stakeholders is paramount in ensuring we win the fight against radicalization and recruitment for a safer community for us and for generations to come.” She said

NCTC Director Dr. Rosa Nyawira and Director HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies Dr. Hassan Khannenje during the event. PHOTO / COURTESY

Recognizing that the youth are at a vantage point to promote a culture of forbearance and tolerance in their immediate environment, Dr. Nyawira urged young people to continue using their talents by creating counter-radicalization products to sensitize and educate the public on their roles in this fight.

“The gala today is in recognition of the effort put by our youths some of whom are present here today, who took the time to take part in the competition and come up with material that will prove useful to the work that Epuka Ugaidi does on a daily basis.” She said

Her sentiments resonated well with those of Nairobi County Commissioner Flora Mworoa who noted that the LUNT (Lenga Ugaidi Na Talanta) project represents a positive multifaceted approach that is necessary for the work being undertaken to fight radicalization and terrorism.

“The awards demonstrate Epuka Ugaidi’s consistent and concerted effort to counter radicalization and recruitment narratives by sustainably involving the youth.” She said

Nairobi County Commissioner Flora Mworoa delivers her speech during the Lenga Ugaidi Na Talanta gala. PHOTO / COURTESY

The National government administrator warned that the impact and spread of terrorist groups cannot be understated. She said new conversations, strategies, and actions on how best to combat terrorism are central in the fight.

Mworoa said this is significant given that the rise of extremist and terrorist groups has been propagated by technological advancements.  She said terror groups have perfected their use of social networks and online platforms to radicalize and recruit youth.

“The statistics show that more than half of Al-Shabaab’s membership is a youth from the Horn of Africa – that is approximately 4,500 youth. This staggering statistic is one that further elaborates the issue at hand.”She said

“Youth are integral to the fight against terrorism, and it is urgent that we find potential mechanisms and strategies to prevent radicalization and recruitment of youth by terror groups.” She reiterated

Mohamed Ali won the Film Category in the Lenga Ugaidi Na Talanta competition. PHOTO / COURTESY

While lauding the initiative, the Director HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies Dr. Hassan Khannenje, noted that the problem with terrorism ‘is not so much about what those who are enemies of civilization do, but it has to do with what are we doing in responding to the threats have been forced on us.”

He said the recent sporadic terrorist-related attacks in Kampala, Uganda, are a reminder of the constant threat that is lurking in the region. To win the war against violent extremism, he says all citizens have a responsibility and a contribution to make and therefore commended the youth for employing their talent towards the course.

“When it comes to young people who make the greatest majority of our populations especially in the IGAD region, one thing that has been lacking before and which increasingly is being recognized is the urgency of young people in bringing about change.” Dr. Khannenje said

“We have to say that we are taking up arms, we are going to soldier on, and wherever they are going to be, with whatever we have, using our know-how, talent, song, poetry, that we are going to confront this common enemy because he cannot be allowed to win because we are the majority. We are right and we are just,” He added

Epuka Ugaidi established a youth-led initiative known as the ‘LENGA UGAIDI NA TALANTA’ competition that seeks to channel youth creativity towards countering the violent extremist narrative in the Horn of Africa region.

Since its inception in 2017, the competition has engaged over 27,000 youth in the Horn region of Africa.

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