KAMPALA – Radicalization is defined as a process by which someone starts to believe or support extreme views, in most cases participate in terrorist acts.
It makes one unreasonably adopt radical positions on political and social issues. Extremism on the contrary refers to the person’s beliefs which are so strong for them to reconsider other aspects of life. All terrorists are radicals and extremists. We condemn all forms and manifestations of radicalization and extremism as drivers of Terrorism. There is a need to tackle the violent manifestation of radicalism in order to counter terrorism.
After the twin bomb blasts in Kampala, several children were reported being radicalized in Kasese, Kayunga, Wakiso, Ntoronko and Luweero districts. Police and sister agencies in the past week rescued about 90 children being held in secret locations and radicalized in Kasese, Ntoronko, Kayunga and Wakiso districts. Radicalization and extremism are drivers of terrorism. We must banish and deter all forms of radicalization of children and young people.
Terrorism is one of the most significant threats to peace, security and stability as well as enjoyment of human rights, social and economic development. Terrorism undermines the values of humanity, love, care, peace and harmony. Nothing justifies terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Radicalization is motivated by a range of factors which include ideologies, religious beliefs, political beliefs and prejudices against particular groups of people.
People may be radicalized in different ways, over different time frames from as little as hours, days, months and years. Anyone can be radicalized but children and young people are at risk. We must safeguard our children and young people against violent radicals and extremists.
The reason why children and young people are at risk of radicalization is they are being easily influenced and impressionable hence vulnerable. Children and young people at risk of radicalization may have low self-esteem, maybe abandoned by parents/ guardians, be victims of bullying or discrimination. Such children may feel isolated, alone, stressed, depressed, angry, bitter, unhappy, embarrassed, fed up with domestic violence, or confused about their identity and under pressure to thrive.
Parents, guardians and the community at large need to address the above factors that make children and young people vulnerable to radicalization.
Radicalizing children is Illegal, absurd, abuse of children’s rights, and outright manipulation of children for selfish gains by terrorist recruiters and trainers. Violent radicalism and extremism is a threat to all countries including ours and we must be vigilant to recognize radicals and aggressively counter their evil acts early enough in all our communities as a way to support police and security agencies’ counter-terrorism initiatives.
There is a need to adopt, implement effective counter-terrorism measures against radicalization and extremism in order to prevent and terrorism.
Parents have a critical role in safeguarding and protecting children from radicalization. They can no longer sit on the sidelines. The fight against terrorism is a fight for all after all terrorism affects all of us indiscriminately.
Parents should not surrender children to unknown strangers for upbringing or disguised education. Be vigilant to know where your child is and with who and check for yourself. Exercise full parental care, concern and control over your children and when anyone goes missing for days or months quickly notify the police. Communication regularly with your children and young people is vital in order to ascertain their state of mind and thinking.
Radicalization to violence is illegitimate unacceptable and must end. Children should not be used as conduits of terrorism. Communities must be vigilant, recognize, identify and detect radicalist training grounds, homes in early stages and quickly notify police and security agencies. Fighting violent radicalization must be an individual or family effort and a community strategy besides being on the government agenda.
Adoption of radical ideas is a mental process, hard to detect among children and young people. Parents must therefore be so observant of the behavioral changes of their children and young people. Recognize a sudden child change of ideas, change in dressing, signs like introversion, child secrecy, child cutting the link with an old network of friends, bitterness, anger and violent analysis of situations. These behavioral changes are useful to the operational goal of detecting and preventing the process of radicalization underway. Although they tell us very little about the acquisition of new knowledge and understanding by the individual. We ought to safeguard and protect children and young people from radicalization and violent extremism.
At home lookout for terrorist materials in possession of children and young people. These may include articles, images, speeches or videos promoting terrorism. Check out their social media platforms for chat forums with postings calling for people to commit acts of terrorism or violent extremism. Parents must be on the lookout and vigilant to fight radicalization and violent extremism.
Find out the friends or peer relationships of your children and young people. Discover their interests and who speaks into their lives.
Since radicalization is a process, you need to detect it early, intercept and save the children. Regularly Analyse the content your children and young people at home feed on- what does it encourage.? Block all access to any suspicious potential terrorist websites in your home and banish any videos about extremism. Restrict access to risky internet sites.
The fight against terrorism requires a strong fight against radicalization and violent extremists. Observe any child’s tendency to sympathize with terrorist causes.
Look out for young people/children glorifying violence and possessing any illegal or extremist literature or advocating message.
This is an era of parental vigilance in the fight against radicalization and terrorism. The best way to support children and young people to stay safe is to love, care and meet their basic needs at home so that they are not lured with empty promises by recruiters.
Become aware of your child’s friend (s) and their families. Keep open communication channels and encourage children and young people to take up positive value addition activities with sports clubs you trust.
Regularly talk to your children about good and educative TV and internet shows. Allow and encourage children and young people to debate on current affairs and world events and help them see different points of view.
Encourage child participation in the local community activities like football, games, sports and show respect for people from all faiths and backgrounds.
Caution children about the dangers of terrorism and becoming involved in situations about which they lack full information.
Train children that violent actions are not a solution to any challenge. Beware of your child’s online activity. Remind children that internet friends and virtual and not reliable nor truthful most times.
Explain to children that anyone trying to tell them to keep secrets from their family is likely to harm them or put them in danger. They must shun them.
Counter violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism in all possible ways. Cooperate and coordinate with police in case you suspect children or young people exposed to ideological extremism. This will require a multi-dimension approach but it all starts with us.
We can all make a comprehensive contribution to government counter-terrorism efforts against terrorism. It is possible to stop radicalization in time and prevent it from leading to terrorism.
Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a member of the Leadership Code Tribunal
Discussion about this post