By Mohamed Muse

In many of the world’s poorest countries like that of Somalia, armed conflicts have destroyed not only infrastructures, but also the hopes and drives of the people living there.

This article would like to postulate the driving factors of violent extremism. In Somalia for example, reports indicate that more than 70% of young men and women drop out of school. Many of these youngsters are living in major towns where they are affected by the frequent violent acts and poor living conditions among other things. Such occurrences pave the way for such population groups to be easily drawn into extremist ideologies.

Some of the contributing factors to such occurrences include a non-functioning state, failed education systems or privately controlled educational institutions, which caters to the elite and thus pushes the wealth gap further fueling another driving force behind extremist ideologies.

The civil war that began as an opposition to Siad Barre in 1991 has engulfed Somalia ever since and it has left the country on the brink of annihilation. The civil war has nearly wiped out all forms of infrastructure including basic services like educational systems, which is important in the fight against extremism.

In recent years, Al-Shabaab fighters have changed their image as often as needed in order to recruit more soldiers totheir cause. Al-Shabaab develops from time to time  a profile that entices recruits and identifies factors that facilitate recruitments including religious identity, socioeconomic circumstances (education, unemployment), political circumstances and the need for a collective identity and a sense of belonging.

It is important to understand the reasons for Al-Shabaab’s rise in order to best counter radicalization’s for such movements.

The Major driving factors are:

  1. Manipulated Ideology

Al-Shabaab is an Islamic extremist ideological group that operates in Somalia. Its members frequently recruit new members from their surroundings but they are also known to recruit from other parts of the world. Al-Shabaab’s followers use various means to attract youths to join their cause. A chief example of this would be a ‘’Manipulated Ideology’’ in which Al-Shabaab takes social and cultural issues and turns them into intolerance of religion, culture, and social structures that are different in respect to the ideologies of its followers.  Such generalized assessment by Al-Shabaab and its kind seek to challenge our shared values of peace, justice and human dignity for a world that is far more darker that it seems to belong to a bygone era.

2. Unemployment

The main cause of unemployment usually are complex socio-economical forces, corruption, and manipulation by external forces. Such factors create unemployment and poverty and it is no different in Somalia. Thus, Al-Shabaab uses the poverty and unemployment to redirect the frustration and anger of the youth of Somalia and redirect them to those it thinks are the real enemy.

On October 14, 2017, Al-Shabaab carried out one of its most devastating attack in Mogadishu, claiming the lives of more than 500 people in one day, after a truck bomb exploded outside a hotel near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the crowded road of KM5.

Once more, the main reasons behind the attack were the lack of social, political and economic sustenance’s followed by long periods of frustrations, humiliations, and hopelessness by the young men and women who could have been the weapon to disintegrate the extremism networks. Additionally, the active civil conflict affected the state institutions including law enforcement, justices, and education centers, which could have participated in the security and development of counter terrorism strategies.

3. Victimization

Al- Shabaab acts like a schoolyard bully; in essence, they use acts of violence to coerce youngsters to join their movement and if not those who refuse them will be violently attacked or killed. Therefore, the young men and women join such radical groups rather than suffering violent consequences.

4. External Interventions

One of the driving factors to join extremist movements is the intervention of external forces as seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia itself.

When foreign powers intervene in local politics whatever their intentions, they do more harm than good. Mostly these happens due the interference of political machinations of the foreign country, lack of understanding of local politics, Proxy wars between powerful countries and so on and so forth.

Foreign countries deploy armies to combat whatever they see as a threat and these actions leave the country they are in a far worse state than they were before. Usually cities are bombed beyond recognition, innocent lives are lost and the survivors are scarred for life. When the situation arises where a foreign powers wins they end up creating a power vacuum, which results in an even worse situation. Therefore, the people disillusioned by years of war and poverty turn to the only group that is willing to help them. The extremists.

5. Lack of Education

In many situations, it is understood that the lack of education could be seen as a major cause for the youth to join extremist groups. The education system in Somalia is very weak, with failed curriculum, which means the youths of Somalia are not able to pursue different opportunities in life and as a result, they do not see a bright future ahead of them. These contributes to the youths being recruited into violent religious extremist groups because of the lack of proper education fails to give them a proper future worth investing in.

6. Group’s Reputation:

Another factor driving the youth to join such terrorist groups is the idea of reputation. For example, al-Shabaab uses to attract new followers by approaching and addressing youngsters by the title of “Amir”, which roughly translates to a commander or leader of high repute. This sales pitch translates to a dream that the younger generation in a better society has about being a musician. Youths are easily intrigued by such ideas, as it takes them from mere obscurity to stardom. This process is believed to be one of the most popular reasons youths join radical extremist groups.