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Framing frictions: frame analysis and Al-Shabaab’s mobilisation strategies in Kenya

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Journal Abstract

Critical Studies on Terrorism

In the last decade, while suffering a dramatic escalation of terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, Kenya has become a major source of recruits for the Somali-based organisation. Relying on analytical tools from the research on social movements, this article investigates terrorist strategies of mobilisation in the country, using frame analysis to explore the imagery promoted by terrorist propaganda to achieve mobilisation of potential supporters. The article shows how, rather than merely reproducing a global radical religious ideology transcending local politics, Al-Shabaab capitalises on historical fractures and conflictual dynamics in Kenya, forging interpretative orientations that draw on more “profane” segments of local narratives, experiences and values to gain resonance among targeted audiences. Such findings have considerable implications, contributing to de-exceptionalising Islamist terrorism in East Africa and pointing to the need of more context-sensitive counter-terrorism measures dealing with the sources of instability that shape a socio-political terrain on which the terrorist message takes root.

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