Recruitment of children into terrorism

By Ivy Maloy

with little chance of getting any education or jobs, young slum dwellers in Kenya are easy prey for terrorist recruiters from Al Shabaab.

Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Martin Kimani told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Monday in New York, that urgent action needs to be taken to tackle the exploitation of children by terrorists. While making a case for the protection of children, he noted that Kenya was worried by the continued radicalization and recruitment of children and youth into terror-related activities.

While addressing a high-level Security Council on children and armed conflict, the Kenyan Representative spoke on the situation in Somalia, a declared and acknowledged Al Qaeda affiliate, which has developed ways to target children into joining the terror groups. He said, in addition to enlisting children into its ranks, Al Shabaab has been carrying out attacks on educational institutions and murdering students.

The major refugee camps in Kenya, such as Dadaab or Kakuma, have traditionally been recruiting grounds for terrorists. Now recruitment is much more widespread, due to the increasing criminal and terrorist activities in the region. Civil society organizations, among others, are concerned that youths are being openly targeted by extremist organizations and are very susceptible to their offers. Regardless of their religious affiliation or ethnic background, boys and young men living in the slums are often approached by al-Shabaab or ISIS recruiters.

“Beyond the direct recruitment efforts, large populations that, of course, include children, are also being subjected to persistent narratives of hatred and discrimination intended to recruit their passive and active support for the aims of Al Qaeda and ISIS groups.” Amb. Kimani told the UNSC.

Owning to this dangerous and worrying trend, Amb. Kimani says that the United Nations Security Council must develop a robust and consistent counter-terrorism strategy so as to ensure the protection of children. “The Security Council can do more on this front. First in sanctioning terrorist groups and their supporters and financial infrastructure more effectively. It can show its seriousness in protecting children by deploying tough sanctions against terrorist groups that recruit or target children,” He charged at a meeting where India rallied behind Kenya’s plea.

Amid protracted terrorism campaigns, Ambassador Kimani says the new generations are growing up with parents who are fighters or in areas where they are exposed to prolonged radicalization. He warns that these groups might recruit for successive generations and that the world must act swiftly to break the deadly chain.

Some youths living in poor neighborhoods are attracted by the promise of money and material reward, others believe in the jihadist ideology, some have lost faith in dysfunctional politics, others look for adventure and for a clear set of rules and norms to follow, and yet others join because of peer or even family pressure. The organizations are very adept at targeting these different youth groups with different promises and messages.

 Terrorist organizations have also been successful in recruiting youths in the West and elsewhere. However, this task is easier in places where poverty, inequality, ethnic and religious tension, political marginalization and insecurity already prevail.

But as the Ambassador said, children and youth need to be given more attention by increasing opportunities for education, employment and political participation and for the UNSC to find a lasting solution to put an end the militia groups.

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