Our Activities in Somalia: The DRR Project
In Somalia, no signs of a process to peacebuilding has been seen, much less peace agreements or ceasefire agreements. Under such a circumstance, social reintegration of the defectors and prisoners of violent extremist groups is extremely difficult, hence further strategic action is necessary. Developing a framework called DRR (De-radicalize, Re-Insertion, Reintegration), Accept International implements various programs in prisons and rehabilitation centers.
The DRR Project aims to build peace, counter violent extremism, and empower youth development through tackling issues of terrorist activities caused by violent extremist organizations. Operating mainly in the Mogadishu Central Prison, the project targets the incarcerated extremist members (mostly youths, youngest at the age of eight). We also target women who have participated in violent extremist activities. As indicated in its name, the project will “De-radicalize” ex-VEO members, “Re-insert” them into their communities, and realize “Re-integration” through continuous support. Moreover, strategic communication activities that promote further defection by active members from their affiliated VEOs has also been implemented in the DRR project. The activities held under the project are as follows:
The counseling session aims to redefine a former member's identity without denying their beliefs, helping them create values that both belong to the individual yet are not harmful to society. By respecting the backgrounds each person holds, and reasons they took such actions, we look to divert such emotions to productive and non-violent means. More precisely, we discuss with the individual on what they want to do after their release (e.g. their dreams, goals, etc.), and seek to change the individuals’ mentality (e.g. talk through problems that are rooted in society, and convince them to be the ones to change it). The session is held to each individual in a timely manner.
②Vocational Training/ Life Skill Training Programs
With the aim to achieve financial and social independence of the target youths, we provide support to the basic training programs (e.g., sewing, welding, etc.) in demand within the local community that have been held in the prison, and assisting the target youths in their job securement. In addition, the program aims to provide the target youths real-life skills through communication with the local community members and help them build relationships. As for the incarcerated women targeted in this project, we provide our vocational training to them such as henna and makeup skills twice a week.
③Basic Education for Prisoners
Hiring teachers, we have been managing a primary and secondary school in the prison. Offering the fundamental subjects such as Mathematics, English, Arabic, Humanities, Science, and Business, the school gives 4 lessons a day, for 4 times a week, to all prisoners.
There are many cases where the target youth does not recognize how the community thinks of them, and vice versa. This misconception may create an emotional distance between the two actors. To solve this, we invite leaders of the community to a meeting with the target youths once a month, and host an interactive session so that both actors are able to deepen their mutual understandings and have a better perspective of the present conditions.
⑤High-Expectation Management Sessions
The risk of re-radicalization may increase when the target youth faces the reality that things don’t work as they expected. During the high-expectation management sessions, we sit down with the target youth and discuss the possible obstacles ahead and seek solutions together in order to minimize the risk of re-radicalization of the target youths in advance. Furthermore, we will discuss with the youths how to utilize the skills obtained from vocational training sessions in real life situations. The session is held to each individual in a timely manner.
⑥Interactive Religious Seminar
Among the target youth members, only few have read the Quran, and the majority holds an altered understanding of the Islamic religion fostered by violent extremist organizations. Denying the conventional "Correctional" approaches, we sit down with the target youths to discuss themes on reconciliation with the society, sins and forgiveness, peace and nonviolence, and the traditional Islamic views concerning the current events in Somalia. The seminar is held twice a week.
In order to promote further social reintegration, the project continues to provide support to the target youths even after their release, with an aim to secure the relationship where the target youths can trust and feel comfort in relying on us.
At the time of their release, we make sure to retain the contact information of their sureties. Moreover, even after their release from the prisons, we continue to provide counselling, as well as monitoring the target youths on a regular basis. We also support their reintegration to the local community by providing consulting on their business activities and investments.
Cooperating with numerous stakeholders, we conduct a variety of community-based sensitization activities such as disseminating information on amnesty, defection from armed groups including violent extremist organizations, and rehabilitation programs.In addition, we have been implementing capacity building trainings to the army and police responsible for taking in defectors, regarding how to handle the defectors, as well as international laws and norms related to the basic rights of defectors.
⑨Comprehensive Development of the Prison
Not only have we provided activities in the prison, but also have been upgrading the facility itself. Up until today, we have conducted the renovation of educational facilities, installation of computers, stationeries, and blackboards, provision of medical kits and medicines, construction of cells for individuals aged below 18 and isolation cells for the sick, and establishment and management of a library.