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Lived realities and local meaning-making in defining violent extremism in Kenya: implications for preventing and countering violent extremism in policy and practice

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)IdeologiesAfrica


Violent extremism is an ambiguous and politically loaded concept, and – at the national level – the parameters used to define it are usually framed by the state, powerful ruling elites, and members of the international community, either directly or indirectly through donor-funded projects. Although different types of violent extremism and extremist movements exist in Kenya, donors and the state often focus on religiously-inspired groups such as Al-Shabaab, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and affiliated networks such as the Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Hijra, and Jaysh Al-Ayman. However, at a community level, participants in our body map workshops highlighted gang violence, police brutality, ethnically motivated violence, marginalisation, discrimination, and gender-based violence as priorities in defining violent extremism. We conclude that constructions of violent extremism at the local level are shaped by lived experiences of everyday insecurities influenced by gender, ethnicity, social status, location, and interactions with the state. To effectively address violent extremism in Kenya and beyond, its definition needs to be contextualised in ways that take into consideration local perspectives and everyday experiences of violence and insecurity.

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