Youth Evaluations of CVE/PVE Programming in Kenya in Context


  • Melissa Finn Balsillie School of International Affairs/ University of Waterloo
  • Bessma Momani Balsillie School of International Affairs/ University of Waterloo
  • Michael Opatowski Balsillie School of International Affairs/ University of Waterloo
  • Michael Opondo International Youth Action Against Terrorism (IYAAT)


Despite the military efforts of the Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Somali Federal governments, the collaboration of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces with US and coalition forces, and despite the enormous tactical and strategic set-backs that al-Shabaab has faced over the last five years, its insurgency in the Horn of Africa (HoA) remains resilient. The Kenyan government’s approach to stemming domestic recruitment to al-Shabaab remains fixated on law enforcement control and surveillance. As a result, many Somali communities are subject to daily crackdowns, interrogations, and discriminatory profiling practices whose negative effects are only heightened by current tribal and clan-based tensions in the country. Current scholarly evaluations of Kenya’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ (CVE) & ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ (PVE) policies tend to adhere to three major approaches: top-down evaluations by elites repeatedly locating the protection of national security in inter-agency cooperation; bottom-up CVE/PVE evaluations placing primacy on the voices of Muslim community elders, such as imams, social workers, parents, and community leaders for interventions with at-risk youth; and social scientific evaluations of CVE/PVE policy through empirical exploration of the push and pull factors of youth recruitment into militancy. To date, there is a dearth of studies asking what Kenyan youth leaders think about CVE/PVE policies especially in light of the fact that they are often the main targets of al-Shabaab attacks. This study has one key objective: to use input from Kenyan youth to evaluate the effectiveness, suitability, and appropriateness of Kenya’s current CVE/PVE policies in order to dissect their utility, inefficiencies, and possible harms, and contribute to the academic and policy discussions on the best CVE/PVE policy mix.


AFP. (2016). “Kenyan teacher eyes $1 mn prize for campaign against extremism.” Mail Online (11 March).

Aldrich, Daniel P. (2014). First Steps Towards Hearts and Minds? USAID’s Countering Violent Extremism Policies in Africa. Terrorism and Political Violence. 26: 523-546.

Ali, Mustafa. (2015). In-depth Interview. Nairobi, Kenya (26 October).

Aly, A. (2015). Finding meaning for countering violent extremism. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, 10(1), 1-2.

Amnesty International. (2014). Amnesty International Report 2014/2015 – Kenya. Accessed via: (June 1, 2016)

Anderson, D. M. and J. McKnight (2015). "Kenya At War: Al-Shabaab And Its Enemies In Eastern Africa". African Affairs 114 (454): 1-27.

Anzalone, Chris. (2016). “The Resilience of al-Shabaab.” CTC Sentinel (April): 13-20.

Bachmann, J., & Hönke, J. (2010). ‘Peace and security’as counterterrorism? The political effects of liberal interventions in Kenya. African Affairs. 109 (434): 97-114.

Boon, K. (2012). Terrorism: The Changing Nature of War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Buzan, B., Wæver, O., & De Wilde, J. (1998). Security: a new framework for analysis. Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Chebet, Vivian. (2016). “Kenya: Anti-Extremism Drive Launched in Isiolo County.” The Nation (15 January).

Chonka, Peter. (2016). “Spies, stonework, and the suuq: Somali nationalism and the narrative politics of pro-Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujahidiin online propaganda.” Journal of Eastern African Studies. 10 (2): 247-265.

Christmann, K. (2012). “Preventing religious radicalisation and violent extremism: A systematic review of the research evidence.” UK: Youth Justice Board. Accessed via: (June 1, 2016)

Daily Nation. (2016). “Kenyan military was 'warned' about Somalia attack.” (January 22).

de Waal, A., & Ibreck, R. (2016). A Human Security Strategy for the European Union in the Horn of Africa. Accessed via: (June 11, 2016).

Demeke, Memar and Solomon Gebru (2014). "The Role Of Regional Economic Communities In Fighting Terrorism In Africa: The Case Of Inter-Governmental Authority On Development (IGAD)". European Scientific Journal. 2: 216-229.

Feddes, Allard R. and Marcello Gallucci. (2015/16). “A Literature Review on Methodology used in Evaluating Effects of Preventative and De-radicalisation Interventions.” Journal for Deradicalization. 5 (Winter): 1-27.

Global Center on Cooperative Security (2015). Countering Violent Extremism And Promoting Community Resilience In The Horn Of Africa: An Action Agenda. Goshen: Global Center on Cooperative Security. Accessed via: (May 30, 2016).

Hanns Seidel Foundation (2015). Youth Voice on Radicalization and Violent Extremism.

Hoffman, P. (2004). Human Rights and Terrorism. Human Rights Quarterly. 26 (4): 932-955.

Hope Sr, K. R. (2012). Engaging the youth in Kenya: empowerment, education, and employment. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth. 17(4): 221-236.

Horgan, John and Kurt Braddock. (2010). “Rehabilitating the Terrorists? Challenges in Assessing the Effectiveness of De-radicalization Programs.” Terrorism and Political Violence. 22: 267- 291.

International Council on Human Rights (2008). Talking about Terrorisms – Risk and Choices.

International Crisis Group. (2014). Update Briefing: Africa Briefing #102. Nairobi/Brussels.

International Crisis Group. (2012). “Kenyan Somali Islamist Radicalisation.” Nairobi: ICG.

Jawad, S. (2015). Terrorism and Human Rights. Sociology and Anthropology. 3 (2): 104-115.

Kabukuru, W. (May 2014). Kenya: Bad move by the police. New African.

Khalil, James and Martine Zeuthen. (2016). “Countering Violent Extremism and Risk Reduction: A Guide to Programme Design and Evaluation.” RUSI: Whitehall Report 2-16.

Khalil, J., and Zeuthen, M. (2014). A Case Study of Counter Violent Extremism (CVE/PVE) Programming: Lessons from OTI’s Kenya Transition Initiative. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 3(1).

Lun, C., L.W. Kennedy, and A. Sherley. (2008). “Is counter-terrorism policy evidence-based? What works, what harms, and what is unknown.” Psicothema. 20.

Mastroe, Caitlin. (2016). “Evaluating CVE: Understanding the Recent Changes to the United Kingdom’s Implementation of Prevent.” Perspectives on Terrorism. 10 (2).

Mogire, E., & Mkutu Agade, K. (2011). Counter-terrorism in Kenya. Journal of Contemporary African Studies. 29(4): 473-491.

Mukinda, Fred (2016). “Nyumba Kumi has little to show as crime rate continues to soar.” Daily Nation, April 13, 2016. Accessed via: (June 11, 2016).

Mueller, J. C. (2016). The evolution of political violence: The case of Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1-26.

Munga, Boaz and Eldah Onsomu (2014). "State Of Youth Unemployment In Kenya". The Brookings Institution.

Open Society Justice Initiative (2013). Counterterrorism And Human Rights Absues In Kenya And Uganda: The World Cup Bombing And Beyond. New York: Open Society Foundations. Accessed via: (June 11, 2016)

Patterson, William R. (2015). “Islamic Radicalization in Kenya.” Joint Forces Quarterly (78).

Ratemo, E. M. (2015). Counterterrorism in Africa: Countering Radicalisation in Kenya (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nairobi).

Savage, S., Khan, A. & Liht, J. (2014). Preventing Violent Extremism in Kenya through Value Complexity: Assessment of Being Kenyan Being Muslim. Journal of Strategic Security. 7(3), 1-26.

Soi, Catherine (2015). "Kenya Tries To Tackle Youth Unemployment". Al Jazeera. (June 11, 2016)

Stratfor (2015). "In Somalia, African Forces Make Gains Against Al Shabaab". Stratfor. (June 11, 2016)

UNDP (2013). Discussion Paper. Kenya's Youth Employment Challenge. New York: United Nations Development Programme.

Zeuthen, Martine (2016). In-depth Interview. Nairobi, Kenya (February 8).