New Network Research Explores Rates of Violent Extremism in relation to the Kenyan Criminal Justice System

The Network, in collaboration with Finn Church Aid, Muslims for Human Rights and Kenyan Muslim Youth Alliance Network, and through the support of the United States Department of State, recently concluded a two-year field research project exploring “Experiences in the Kenyan Criminal Justice System and the Relationship to Violent Extremism.” The main objective of the research project was to advance a deeper understanding of how the breakdown of trust between local communities, state and criminal justice system actors might affect the radicalization process of individuals. The research hopes to inform policymakers on possible gaps and additions to current counterterrorism and counter violent extremist strategies and therefore, contribute to solutions.

Kenya has experienced numerous terrorist attacks in the last decade, which in addition to fatalities, have resulted in massive economic losses with a long-term impact on foreign direct investment. The apparent continuing threat of violent extremism was reaffirmed during the al-Shabaab terrorist attack at the Dusit Hotel in Nairobi on 15 January 2019.  

In light of the impact of violent extremism, developing effective counter strategies is critical to meet the the changing strategies employed by the violent extremists and the continuation of attacks. In the absence of empirical research on all the different dimensions of violent extremism, but more important the consequences of countermeasures, counter strategies are at risk of being ineffective. An evidence-based understanding of the underlying factors propelling violent extremism is therefore crucial.

The Network, in collaboration with Finn Church Aid, Muslims for Human Rights and Kenyan Muslim Youth Alliance Network, and through the support of the United States Department of State, recently concluded a two-year field research project exploring, “Experiences in the Kenyan Criminal Justice System and the Relationship to Violent Extremism.”  This research advances an understanding of ways in which violent extremist organizations use the breakdown of trust between local communities, state and criminal justice systems to harness support for their activities and to recruit individuals at risk.  The report aims to inform policy-makers on possible additions to current counterterrorism and counter violent extremist strategies and therefore contribute to solutions.

To achieve this overarching objective, 379 one-on-one interviews with respondents were conducted representing individuals who have been arrested, detained or convicted on terror charges in Kenya (referred to as the ‘detained’ sample), their immediate families, as well as officials from the criminal justice system and the Kenyan government tasked with countering violent extremism and terrorism. In addition to above one-on-one interviews, focus groups discussions were conducted with people representing all of the three groups from diverse religious, gender, political and socio-economic backgrounds.

Through analysing the experiences of the three target groups, research results aim to improve the understanding of violence extremism in Kenya by providing primary data on how to better-approach violence extremism. Secondly, it identifies policy shortfalls that impede the implementation of counter-violent extremism policies. Thirdly, this analysis further provides policy recommendations to address contributing factors, including the perceptions of unjust treatment as well as a history of mistrust and perceived marginalization.


The research report will be released in late Fall 2019.  The Network website (https://www.peacemakersnetwork.org/) and Network social media channels (@peacemakersnetw) will announce the official release date.