Strengthen NYS role in fighting extremism among youth

Monday, May 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Public Service CS Margaret Kobia (left) talks to NYS Director-General Matilda Sakwa at NYS college, Gilgil. Photo/PD/File

Edward Mwachinga        

In the past two decades, youth have been at the heart of discourse on peace, security and conflict resolution, thanks to increasing recognition of youth’s vital role in sustaining peace and reducing violence, as opposed to just being treated as just passive “leaders of tomorrow”. 

The idea of youth as key drivers of global peace and security was captured in the UN Security Council resolution of 2015 (SCR 2250) calling on countries to involve youth in decision-making on peace, security and conflict-management issues. 

The UNSC resolution of 2018 (SCR 2419) also emphasizes the role of youth in negotiation and implementation of peace agreements.

Considering that violent extremism remains one of the biggest threats to international peace and security, youth cannot continue to be relegated to the periphery as the world struggles to contain the menace of extremism.

Nowhere is youth inclusion in the war on extremism more urgent than in Africa, where violent extremism is costing countries about Sh10 trillion annually, according to the UN.

Only last year, UNSC expressed growing concern over the threat posed by the surge in terrorism in Africa, calling for concerted effort in addressing it.  

With 60 per cent of the African population being youth, extremists have reportedly intensified efforts at recruiting youth.

A 2017 study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) pointed at lack of opportunities, marginalisation and exclusion as leading factors driving youth to extremist ideologies.

As a non-permanent member of UNSC, and as a country that has borne the brunt of terrorism, Kenya is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in addressing the problems from an African context.

This includes leveraging institutions such as the National Youth Service (NYS) in expanding opportunities for youth, and more critically, creating structures for systematic participation of youth in preventing and countering of violent extremism.

NYS Act of 2018 mandates the service to cooperate and assist the Kenya Defence Forces, National Police Service and other security agencies in dealing with public emergencies, disasters, wars and insurrections.

The Act thus confers a national security function on NYS. As such, the service has the capacity to act as a platform for strengthening youth involvement and participation in combating terrorism and violent terrorism as major national security threats. This is a preventive role.

NYS should partner with counties in training youth. The Act gives the NYS power to enter into partnerships with public and private bodies to establish, implement, monitor and finance training or employment programmes.

In this regard, the community cohort programme and others should be integrated into the County Action Plans on combating youth radicalisation to extremism right from the villages.

Apart from alleviating youth unemployment, such programmes serve to enhance community resilience to violence and other forms of extremism as they directly target the youthful population who are considered the most vulnerable to radicalisation.

NYS should also consider increasing the number of recruits from communities or localities considered prone to extremism.

Another proposal is to equip NYS recruits with PCVE skills to transform them into change agents at community, county and national level, promoting peace and security and actively engaging in conflict resolution.

That way, youth will play their rightful role in sustaining peace and securing the nation for generations. — The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya  [email protected].

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