Softer approaches like generating organic counter-narratives can be essential to preventing radicalisation and violent extremism more than using kinetic forces of the police and the military, a security expert has said.
“This approach of deploying security operatives to confront criminal actors is usually the approach by state actors but there are also soft approaches to preventing violent extremism,” said Ali Richard, the Project Manager of Engaging Borders Africa.
Engaging Borders Africa is a project under the STRADA Development Initiative that gathers a range of expertise cutting across African literature, security studies, as well as the civic space with the shared aim of changing the ways young people understand radicalisation, violent extremism, and disinformation, which are key feeders of conflict and terror in Africa.
Richard said the project targets writers and journalists who will popularize diverse counter-narratives and demonstrate the effectiveness of these soft approaches across African countries where extremism and radicalism have taken roots.
Speaking at the end of a training event that had participants chosen from Nigeria, Niger Republic, Cotê d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Kenya, he emphasised, “These are countries that have a history of violent extremism and have suffered terror attacks especially in regions nearing borders.”
According to him, after a massive open online course and virtual workshop on the use of storytelling, multimedia, and artistic expressions the project will use these entries as short stories and films in partnership with the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA)
Violent extremism in Africa
According to data from a survey by Afro Barometer, penetrable borders shared by Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Niger Republic have allowed terror attacks to expand their operations to Sahel epicenter countries.
The survey indicated that Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali are among the top five countries that have feared and experienced violent extremism.
Richard said some of these types of attacks when analyzed stemmed from hate speeches, misinformation, or stereotypical notions. “As people have become more connected through the internet there has been a rise in extremist rhetoric and extreme hate speech.”
This is in line with an analysis that revealed social media threats are not confined to social media users alone and false or inflammatory narratives that become popular online travel by word of mouth or text.
Richard said that these ‘Borders’ the project is looking at are not only geographical ones separating countries but those that separate people in perceptions and judgment.
He added that the project aims to convert such narratives into storybooks and cartoons to widen the reach to children.
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