Prevention of Violent Extremism in Tanzania: My personal experience as a Peace Maker

 

At age 29, Seleman Yusuph Kitenge is a veteran of a decade of campaigning on youth development, peace and security. With the support of the European Commission (EC), Seleman has been selected to attend the One Young World Summit 2018 as part of the EC-One Young World Peace Ambassador programme, which promotes and accelerates young leaders in preventing and countering violent extremism, peace-building efforts and conflict resolution.

According to the Global Peace Index 2018 Report, Tanzania is ranked 51 out of 163 countries as a country in a good state of peace. This makes it the most peaceful country in the East  and central African region compared with its neighbors. Moreover, as per Counter Violent Extremism Report of 2018, Tanzania experienced its first and only large-scale terrorist attack in 1998 when al-Qaeda launched simultaneous bombings on the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, Kenya, killing a total of 224 people. Since then, Tanzania has remained relatively resilient to terrorist activity as compared to its regional neighbors Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia. However, the country still faces the threats of violence inciting religious leaders, politicians as well as networks of Islamic extremists such as Al Shabab which is known to have an affiliation to Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, the government in response to this challenge passed counterterrorism legislation in 2002 with the Prevention of Terrorism Act and amended it further in 2016. Not only that but also, through Tanzania’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the government is currently drafting the country’s National Action Plan for Preventing Violent Extremism with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which as a Peace Advocate, I have also been part of the process through the National Working Group on Prevention of Violent Extremism coordinated by Green Light Project LLC for the period of One year from February 2017 to February 2018.

Personally, I started to get involved in this field since when I joined different youth movements when I was still a Secondary school student where through organizations such as Youth of United Nations Association of Tanzania, African Network of Youth Policy Experts, Jane Goodall Institute and Global Network of Religions for Children Peace Club, I was able to get involved actively in promoting peaceful coexistence among fellow Tanzanians  and the world at large especially youth. Last year, I was appointed to be the Country Director for the Pan African Humanitarian Awards and Summit where prevention of violent extremism and humanitarian affairs were  at the centre of discussions on both offline and online platforms where apart from recognizing peace makers from different part of Africa and the world we also had two campaigns known as #PeaceBeginsWithMe and #PeaceIsPossible to raise awareness and push the agenda of peace forward.

My work on Prevention of violent extremism has been widely based on empowering youth participation in governance so as to reduce the sense of them feeling marginalized to the extent that they can easily be manipulated to incite violence as well as on online campaigns such as #LoveConquersHate which I initiated in 2016 and by writing different articles on peace issues as well as taking part in different national and international dialogues that target to counter violent extremism and terrorism across the globe.

For those who would like to join the movement of advocating for peace, my advice is they should first have an interest in the matter itself, since if one has found the necessity of having a peaceful world will no doubt dedicate his time, energy and resources to make sure that no one distort the existing peace in his community or country. Moreover, one needs to develop the culture of reading various books and articles on the subject matter so as to have a deep understanding of issues around violent extremism and terrorism itself so as to be able to counter-narratives which promote hate and incite violence within our communities.

As I concluded on my speech during the Pan African Humanitarian Summit, peace begins with me, therefore on that note, it is the duty of every individual to play his or her part in ensuring that we live in peace, harmony and with respect to diversity and by resolving our misunderstandings and disputes through dialogues and soft diplomacy. Last but not least, one can be involved in this field by creating programs that target to create inter-religious dialogues, raise awareness (media or social media), promote social cohesion as well as identification of early warnings and response ability among the community members.