Over the last decades, self-radicalization has been one of the successful tools used by home grown extremists to negatively impact human existent.
This form of terrorism is a process by which an individual, or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of the nation.
Academic researchers have argued over the years, but it still remains that the concept lacks a generally acceptable definition (Golder and Williams 2004).
Notwithstanding, Bjorgo (2005) consider it as an age long phenomenon that continues to wreck its havoc with strong, fragile and failed state.
Self-radicalization happens when one gets involved with self-teaching of extreme beliefs which may likely influence their thoughts about how to effectively respond.
Self-radicalization across the world is encouraged by entrenched unresolved political, economic issues like horrible poverty, uneven justice, religious issues and others. Many security and terrorism research professionals have linked radicalization to entrenched religious acceptance.
To these scholarly submissions, the most important conclusions of radicalization might be a misnomer.
According to a team of 17 researchers that collected testimony from 76 young people who have been involved with Malian ‘jihadist’ groups AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], Katiba Macina, MUJWA [Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa], etc. – rarely met radicalized youth, in the sense that their participation in such groups was as a result of religious indoctrination.
This finding led to a team of Institute for Security Study researchers conducting a research project which concluded that it was more appropriate to seek understanding of youth’s association with violent extremist groups and self-radicalization instead of assuming an alleged ‘religious extremism’ as a lone factor. Contrarily to the first submission, many don’t join primarily for religious reasons or money.
They identified more than 16 categories of factors leading to youth involvement in radicalism and violent extremism.
Some of the factors are linked to a need for protection (of oneself, one’s family or community) or to economic reasons, including the need to protect an income-generating activity (cattle herding, drug trafficking, etc.).
There are also individual, psychological, historical and political reasons. Others are linked to coercion or the environment.
The report summarizes these findings in a titled ‘Mali’s young jihadists: fuelled by faith or circumstance?’.
The results of this project challenge preconceived ideas about the reasons why young people join extremist groups.
The case of Liberia and other countries with low profile of extremism and self-radicalization, the appropriate need for preventive machinery remains imperative.
Judging from Liberia’s past and with current reports pointing to high level of fragility, we should be concerned.
According to the catholic Relief Service survey (CRS) report, Liberia’s peace is tentative, fragile and volatile. Key findings in the CRS report point to where respondents were evenly split on whether Liberia is at risk of once again descending into large-scale violent conflict (50.6% for “high to very high risk” and 43.7% for “no to low risk”).
On reconciliation, more than 80% of the respondents felt that people who suffered grave injury during the war did not receive justice through the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Half of the respondents (49.7%) believed that post-war reconciliation failed to achieve its objectives.
Youth unemployment is one of those the report qualified poorly, declaring that youth unemployed is 58.2%, topping the list of those who could instigate violence.
The report further submitted that Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Montserrado were cited by respondents as the counties most likely to spark conflict, due to both historical and current factors.
Inhabitants of Rivercess (79.3%), Nimba (74.9%); Grand Kru (74.4%); and Grand Cape Mount (74.2%) assessed the risk as highest, while respondents in River Gee were the most optimistic.
These issues remain of concern to Liberians and our international partners, judging that they inform individual or group approach to seeking solution.
One can clearly say that Liberia, just like other countries aiding global efforts to create an “extremists free” world, must act now through programs and interventions that seek to make radicalization an unattractive option to seeking redress.
It can be noted by available records, to mention few- Great Britain (Westminster attack, London bridge), Egypt (Catholic church palm Sunday attack), Paris (Nice attack), United States (2016 Orlando nightclub attack), Nigeria, Somalia and others, that radicalization is becoming a widely accepted approach for speaking out and revenge against a set of people, idea or nation.
Is there sufficient recognition of these root causes in our case? Not only are there multiple factors and dynamics but they usually also overlap and vary from one person, group, locality, degree and time to another.
Moreover, the reasons why an individual joins a group are not necessarily the same as those that make them decide to remain in or leave.
There are needs to do a more complex understanding of the multiplicity of factors that underlie youth involvement, instead of labeling all of them as religious fanatics.
Not just a theoretical understanding, but an understanding that informs policymaking, impacts strategy development and feeds into programme design.
For Liberia, our initial findings point to already existing programs piloted formally and informally by hatai shops, peace building networks, radio talk shows and social media groups by encouraging open discussions of issues affecting individuals, groups and the state in general in a way that helps reduce tension, hatred, clear misconceptions and reduce mainly the ‘anger storage’ of many young person.
However, it appears that these messages are not coin/structure to specifically discourage self-radicalization and mind manipulation.
First and foremost, scrutinizing how multiple factors lead to one becoming radicalized and conduct terrorist acts is very important and represents a new procedure that informs counter radicalization preventive measures.
This includes the incorporation of a mix of political, social and psychological insights in forging a mechanism that seeks create, promote high standard intellectual platforms to address wide-range of concerns/issues affecting youths across the country.
These discourses will touch on multidisciplinary model of radicalization, counter-radicalization and de-radicalization, focusing on how we can make radicalization unattractive.
While there are legitimate apprehensions about the need to take serious action in heightening Liberia’s counter terrorism approaches, it remains a fact that prevention is the first mast of enterprising security architecture now in the world, which we must shadow.
There is a growing inclination to every old security structure that security heads towards detection and respond mechanism, but with prevention, damages are not incur, making it the wiser approach for security and peace.
Very few places then, ‘prevention’ at the core of their security strategy, however prevention focused security framework is gaining prominence in recent times, which Liberia must benefit from.
Budget constraints and shortage of skilled manpower are compelling countries to bring maximum value out of deployments, and hence, a prevention first approach, can enable them to build robust security policies and address the issue of cost, talent, and experts.
Emmanuel David Togba, Contributing Writer