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Amnesty law key to combating terrorism

Thursday April 18 2019

AL-SHABAAB

Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Coast branch chairman Sheikh Shariff Khitamy. Supkem indicated that a robust amnesty programme backed by law will give assurance to Shabaab returnees ready to surrender and be reintegrated in the society. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ABU ABUSUFIAN
By ABU ABUSUFIAN
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Reports of a bill to provide a legal framework for reintegration of Al-Shabaab returnees in the society is good news.

At the Nation Leadership Forum held recently at the University of Nairobi, National Counter Terrorism Centre director Martin Kimani spoke on the need to rehabilitate the returnees as a strategy in countering terrorism, a monster that has evolved into the biggest threat to national security.

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) has relentlessly called for such legislation.

While in 2015 the government gave amnesty to those who denounced and abandoned terrorism, lack of a legal framework has been a major hindrance to encouraging returnees to give themselves up and enrol in the deradicalisation programmes.

Despite the state-run rehabilitation programme, many former Al-Shabaab fighters are sceptical of the amnesty over reports that some of those who surrendered were killed, allegedly by security agents.

POVERTY

Studies show the motive of many who join violent groups as more of personal and economic than ideological. This explains why many youths who went to Somalia are jobless and from economically deprived areas.

Giving returnees a second chance is one of the strategies being employed by different countries to combat terrorism.

It has proved to be effective in addressing the threat of terrorism, as integration is the only chance to keep a close eye on the returnees, lest they return to their past ways.

Failure to provide a conducive environment for those ready to renounce their past activities have an added danger of leaving them vulnerable to criminal groups, which could exploit that to nudge them back to crime.

COUNSELLING

After the recent defeat of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), some Western nations, such as Canada, are considering deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of the returnees rather than prosecution.

The Aarhus model in Denmark, where Isis returnees from Syria were welcomed and provided with the means to reintegrate in society, has been praised by counter-terrorism experts for its effectiveness.

The government could as well take a leaf from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has a robust programme focusing on religious re-education and psychological counselling with thousands of graduates reintegrated into the society.

More than 700 youth are said to have slipped back into the country from Somalia with many of them leading a life shrouded in fear and stigma.

AMNESTY

By providing them with the much-needed assurance, they will contentedly give themselves up to be rehabilitated and, hopefully, be productive.

As Supkem had indicated, a robust amnesty programme backed by law will give assurance to those ready to surrender and be reintegrated in the society.

More so, it will encourage those embedded with terrorist groups outside the country to consider returning.

The bill should be speeded up and more synergy placed on cooperation between the State, religious organisations and the public in fighting terrorism.

After all, the aftermath of terrorism does not differentiate between faith, tribe or race; all become victims.

Mr Abusufian is the head of media at Jamia Mosque, Nairobi. [email protected]

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