Kenya is known for being one of the world’s largest host countries for refugees, holding more than 480,000 mainly in refugee camps as of 2019. In particular, approximately 260,000 are from Somalia, more than half of the refugee population. Under such a circumstance, the Kenyan government, concerned about the overabundance of refugees, has been linking refugees especially from Somalia to crime and terrorism, seeing them as a security threat. As a consequence, the government has been continuously disregarding human rights by justifying extrajudicial measures such as murder, wrongful arrest, and attempting to shut down refugee camps. This in part has also been due to the rise of Al-Shabaab, a violent extremist group based in Somalia. The international community led by the United States has tolerated the hardline approach of the Kenyan government, under the banner of "war on terrorism".
As a result of the Kenyan army invading Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), terrorist activities by Al-Shabaab have become increasingly conducted in Kenya as retaliation. Consequently, numerous casualties have occurred in the north-eastern regions and coastal areas near the border of Somalia, in addition to Nairobi.
In conducting terrorist activities in Kenya, Al-Shabaab has been recruiting vulnerable youths, including gang members. Such recruiters have especially been reported in the Eastleigh District of Nairobi and the surrounding semi-slum areas, which were raided by the Kenyan government in 2014. Moreover, coupled with the high unemployment rate in the region as a whole, vulnerable youths, including gang members often turn to crimes such as theft and drugs to survive, a problem that further isolates them from society. From this background, they are at huge risk of radicalizing and engaging in terrorism, through being lured into such actions by recruiters.
At the same time, however, they are ‘youths’ that have the potential to be social changemakers. Taking a focus on the potential they hold, we have been accepting them as youths with a promising future and taking various measures to foster their ability to forge their path.