An Open Access Article

Type: Research Article
Volume: 2023
Keywords: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, Radicalization, Deradicalization, Terrorists, Violent Extremism, Boko-Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Jihad, al-Jama’a Islamiyah, The Muslim Brotherhood, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, and Egypt.
Relevant IGOs:

Article History at IRPJ

Date Received: 09/30/2023
Date Revised:
Date Accepted:
Date Published: 10/10/2023
Assigned ID: 20231010

Deradicalization as Counterterrorism Strategy: A Comparative Assessment of Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, and Nigeria Strategies

Victoria Ogbuehi

Corresponding Author:

1.1.  Abstract

Are we all aware of terrorism? Not all of us understand the core of terrorism but most of the world’s adult population is undoubtedly aware of terrorism, a phenomenon that is as old as the existence of mankind itself. Terrorism has led to unquantifiable losses of human lives and valuable assets and has depleted the resources of most of the nations that have found themselves constantly reacting to incidents of terrorism. Impacted nations have over the years deployed full military actions as their primary counterterrorism approach over the years but it is evident that these measures are not sufficient as they have not given respite to these countries by way of victory.

Deradicalization is now the current upsurge cutting across different countries of the world not as an alternative to the ongoing military actions but as a compliment to what is already there. Deradicalization is an interesting subject matter as some of the countries that adopted it have already started counting their gains even though there is not much awareness about it and the program elements that make it up.

This paper, therefore attempted to scrutinize the various deradicalization programs across select countries from North, West, and East Africa. The aim was to understand their distinct approaches and compare what makes them distinct. The study found that there is no public information on what the governments of Egypt, Kenya, and Somalia are doing in this regard unlike Nigeria, and called for more research efforts to be directed in this field.

1.2.  Introduction

Because counterterrorism has been the fodder for the news for decades now it has gained prominence as national and international kinetic actions against terrorists. This continued in the face of growing incidents of terrorism across different continents and regions and a realization that military actions alone even though required for counterterrorism, are no longer sufficient hence the need for the incorporation of a non-kinetic which is a softer humane and preventive approach done in a manner that new sets of extremists are not created by trying to extinguish the existing ones.[1]

It is impossible therefore to evoke a conversation on countering violent extremism (CVE), counterterrorism, and deradicalization without having the required insight about terrorism and why people get radicalized.  The essence of this paper is to understand the concept of terrorism, radicalization, why people get radicalization, and the deradicalization aimed at purifying the extremists. Furthermore, the paper hopes to conduct a comparative analysis of the deradicalization programs that were adopted in Egypt a transcontinental country in North Africa, Somalia and Kenya in East Africa, and Nigeria in the West African sub-region. Understudying these four African countries alongside Nigeria became necessary because these countries are marking impacts at different levels with their homegrown deradicalization programs. The uniqueness and similarities of each of these countries’ deradicalization programs will be appraised in the cause of this presentation to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the identified programs.

Africa over the years has not just been renowned as the home to homemade terrorist organizations, but it has also served as the base, training ground, and transit route for international terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The African continent has been dealing with terrorist-related issues for decades now and most of its wrestle included the fight against Al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Shabaab, Boko-Haram, the Lord’s Resistant Army, and the like.[2] One of the approaches adopted by the regional body in its counterterrorism is the development of several policy and legal instruments that serve as the roadmap in the fight.

Prominent among these instruments is the Organization of African Union (OAU) Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (1999). Amid the chaos, Africa prides itself as the originator of ‘deradicalization’ as it is known today as the terminology first emerged in the Arab states of Egypt and Algeria in the late twentieth century before spreading to other countries and regions of the world.[3]

One of the major requirements of the convention is for participating parties to criminalize ‘terrorism’ in their local laws according to the guidelines provided in the convention while stipulating areas of jurisdiction and cooperation among participating states.[4] The comparison also hopes to point to improvement opportunities that the countries of interest may decide to leverage for better results.

1.3.  Understanding Terrorism

Terrorism is well known and has been so for centuries now. Unfortunately, there has not been any unanimous or generally accepted definition for the term. This limitation has however not stalled the progress made in addressing the attendant challenges, consequences, and impact of terrorism over the years. The American FBI made a distinction between International and Domestic terrorism by defining the former as ‘violent criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by, or associated with designated foreign organizations or nations (state-sponsored) while the latter is defined as violent criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.[5]

The two definitions emphasize the use of violence by criminals which may be controversial as crime is defined per jurisdiction. In other words, what is considered a crime in one jurisdiction may not be perceived as such or even codified in another. Additionally, there is no known globally accepted criteria for proscribing a group as a terrorist organization even though groups proscribed by the United States have been recognized and treated as such at the international level. Foreign terrorist organizations or groups are designated as such by the United States Secretary of State by the provisions of the 2019 Immigrations and National Act (INA), as amended.[6]

To make this happen, the United States Bureau of Counterterrorism in the State Department (CT) is vested with the power to monitor the activities of all active terror groups around the world and identify potential targets for designation based on their assessments of foreign Once a target is identified for designation, a detailed administrative record explaining the statutory justification for the designation is prepared by the CT with supporting evidence from both classified and open-source information.[7]

Hence with this limitation at the fore, the definition may apply only to the United States of America. The European Union (EU) on its part defined terrorism as acts committed to ‘seriously intimidate a population, unduly compelling a government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act, seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic, or social structures of a country or international organization.[8] This definition by the EU is more comprehensive than the former because it encapsulates attacks against the international community/organization. Nonetheless, ‘violence’ can be inferred as that is one of the ways to intimidate a population no matter how brave and get the government on its knees.

We cannot go on and on about this aspect of the paper, but it is important to note some of the elements that make up acts of terrorism which include the deployment of violence, intimidation, and destruction that cuts across national borders. Because of the absence of an internationally accepted definition of terrorism, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights has urged the nations of the world to incorporate the key elements of terrorism as stipulated in the UN’s Security Council Resolution 1566 (2004) in modeling the definition developed by the Special Rapporteur which emphasis that terrorism involves ‘the intimidation or coercion of populations or government through the threat of perpetrate violence causing death, serious injury, or the taking of hostages.[9] This goes to show that the definition of ‘terrorism’ to a large extent is at the discretion of the states which has resulted in the diverse interpretation of domestic counterterrorism laws as we see today.

The absence of a universal definition of terrorism for legal purposes has far-reaching implications. One of those is that different states may resort to politicizing the term by applying it as they deem convenient in their respective criminal jurisprudence which may lead to the violation of fundamental human rights of their citizens and even aliens.[10] Secondly, the confusion may lead to ambiguity in the codification of crime as one of the principles of the law is clarity and certainty which ensures that criminal acts and their corresponding penalties are established and defined before the commission of the crime. Additionally, this has led to the inability of the laws on terrorism and the normative standards for countering terrorism to be harmonized at the national and regional levels.[11]

1.4.  Radicalization and Why People Get Radicalized

Historically, the term which is derived from the Latin word ‘radix or root’ meant anything that affected the primary nature of something though this interpretation changed over time, and by the end of the 19th century it was perceived as those who represented or supported political parties with extremist views, but it has been referred to the adoption of extreme beliefs and behaviors since 2005.[12] The term however gained much traction after the 9/11 series of attacks in the US. In the simplest terms, it refers to all the activities that had happened before the explosive went off. Just like terrorism, it has no universally accepted definition and is hence heavily contested as it means different things to different people.[13]

However, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa in one of its sessions conceptualized radicalization as a  ‘process marked by a departure from generally accepted social norms and values; the objective of those using radicalization as a tool is to pressure others to subscribe to the same worldview.[14] Still, we shall try to explore some of the existing definitions for the benefit of this paper. According to McCauley and Moskalenko (2008), as presented by (Trip et al., 2019), there exist functional and descriptive radicalization. The former is defined as ‘an enhanced preparation for intergroup conflict and an accentuated engagement to it’ while the latter is the ‘change in beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that justify intergroup violence and the demand for sacrifice in defending the own group.’ In this definition, we see that people get radicalized because they have pending scores to settle and must prepare ahead of time by getting the training and imbibing the ideologies that must justify the aftermath of their actions.[15] Another that is evident is that the radicalized person must change his belief or value system which is reflected in his behaviors as the radicalization process which is usually non-linear takes place.

According to in their book titled ‘The Three 3Ns of Radicalization: Needs, Narratives, and Network’ they were explicit in pointing out that people would ordinarily get radicalized because they have a need which could be economic, socio-political, religious, racial, etc., to meet.[16] These needs may range from the need to attain basic economic, political, or social status to the need to avenge a perceived or real ill to the need to be recognized, etc. The narrative comes into the equation. The proponents of this theory opined that the need for relevance or significance alone is not sufficient to produce violent extremists because some may exhibit the need to be respected and famous but channel that need in a constructive and non-violent manner that will not constitute harm to anyone.

So, any relevance gained through violence will require an ideology that justifies violence and is articulated in the group’s narrative which most times infers that violence is deployed as a way of protecting the group from enemies which is upheld by the group as a show of utmost duty and patriotism to the group.[17] Working becomes relevant in the equation because it is a conduit through which people consociate with and accept ideological narratives through the promotion of violent extremism on social networks. Because of the trust in religious and eloquent leaders and sometimes influencers on social media and even trusted friends, their wired radical ideologies are accepted hook-line and sinker without due diligence or scrutiny.[18]

Even as we attempt to gain insight into radicalization, it is important to note at this point that not all radicalization leads to violence or terrorism. The Canadian National Strategy for Countering Radicalization to Violence articulated this distinction by providing a different definition for ‘radicalization’ and radicalization to violence.[19] According to the national agency, radicalization is a ‘process by which an individual or a group gradually adopts extreme positions or ideologies that are opposed to the status quo and challenge mainstream ideas. Radicalization to Violence on the other hand is the ‘process where individuals or groups adopt and/or belief system that justifies the use of violence to advance their cause Public Safety Canada, ‘National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence’, 21 December 2018,

Whatever the case may be, it is now established that there must be radicalization before violent extremism and terrorism, and not all forms of radicalization lead to terrorism which makes the emphasis of this paper, ‘radicalization that leads to violence.’ In other words, not all radicals are terrorists, but all terrorists are radicals. Radicalization is a four-stage process of pre-radical, self-identity, indoctrination, and terrorism which involves a person joining or identifying with a group and then going on to accept the beliefs held by the group which makes him submit himself to the group to be groomed for the journey and task ahead which ultimately results in the person building the requirement to commit terrorist acts.[20]

The four-stage model of the terrorist mindset paints a clearer picture of how terrorists are triggered and move up the ladder of radicalization until they become terrorists. This model was developed by Randy Borum (2003) and cited by CIDOB.[21] According to Borum, there are some common factors to all processes of violent radicalization. So, first, it explains how grievances and the feeling of vulnerability transform into hatred against a specific group, agency, or government and how the hatred is used to justify violence.

The four-stage model of terrorist mindset

Source: Fecha de publicación (2016)

1.5.  Deradicalization

Now that we have provided perception into terrorism and radicalization-to-violence which is the initial stages before the act of terrorism is carried out. The expose’ suggests that nobody was born a terrorist. In other words, radicalization is a phase in life where one decides to take up new behaviors by exhibiting a distinct attitude due to changes in beliefs, morals, and ideologies. This is reinforced by the definition published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) which I consider instructive even though the definition was hypothesized with the North African model of ‘deradicalization’ where the methodology takes cognizance of the behavioral, ideological, and organizational dimensions in mind. It defined deradicalization as the ‘process of working to combat extremism in groups or individuals that have already committed violence.[22]

Deradicalization is a non-linear action that does not necessarily follow the same pattern and produce the same result, but it is a time when the radicals are indoctrinated to take off their old behavioral clothes and put on new ones with a series of justifications. Hence it is usually a learning process triggered by needs, narrative, and network as we already adopted in the 3Ns of radicalization.

Furthermore, since it is established that it can be learned because no one was born a radical irrespective of tribe, race, political affiliations, or religious beliefs then it can be un-learned. This then takes us to the concept of ‘deradicalization,’ a notion which in a nutshell involves all the processes that a radicalized person must go through to get rid of extremist views before eventual reintegration into society. Additionally, there is the need for an understanding of radicalization itself without which we cannot develop a valid deradicalization methodology which again underscores that there cannot be deradicalization without radicalization.

Therefore, the overarching aim of deradicalization is to peacefully move individuals or groups of persons away from extremist views so they can abandon extremist views, disengage from terrorism, get rehabilitated, and reintegrate into society. Different countries are designing deradicalization programs to soothe their distinct realities but regardless of the nature and strategy deployed in the program, the target persons are often potential terrorists, serving inmates in the prisons, convicted criminals, and repentant extremists.[23] According to the needs assessment, bespoke deradicalization programs must be developed if the risk of re-engagement or recidivism must be reduced since deradicalization programs go beyond containing the escalation of terrorism to encouraging reconciliation and reintegration in the affected communities. There is also no doubt that deradicalization comes with several benefits, including reducing the budgetary allocation for keeping and maintaining offenders in custody for some time.[24]

Most of the things said so far about deradicalization tend to imply that deradicalization can only be formal through the introduction of different processes and activities to be called so and successful. That is not completely the case as was established in the case of a notorious Al-Shabaab terrorist, Mahmoud Mugisha. Mugisha who is from Rwanda was found to be complicit in the July 2010 twin suicide attacks on the night of the FIFA World Cup finals leading to seventy (70) injuries and seventy-four (74) fatalities is an interesting one of how empathy can catalyze expedited deradicalization.[25] Mugisha buttressed how critical an insider witness could be in such cases when he voluntarily gave insight into his role throughout the planning and execution of the attack. He got deradicalized during this time because of the awe-inspiring empathy he received during his period of incarceration and even referred to one of the government officials as the ‘father he never had.[26]

1.6.  Deradicalization in Egypt, Somalia,  Kenya, and Nigeria A Comparative Analysis

The crux of this section is to examine briefly the concerns around radicalization, terrorism, and deradicalization in Egypt where we shall consider the activities of the Islamic State – Sinai Province (ISIS-SP) an organization that has established dominance since its formation in 2014, designated an international terrorist organization and has taken responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks in Egypt since then.

Egypt is intended for this paper because of its position in Africa as the strongest economy a spot that it shares with Nigeria. It vaunts a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $477 Billion but stands out as a transcontinental or crossroad nation linking Africa to Europe and Asia.[27] The official data from the World Bank indicates that Nigeria’s GDP in 2022 was $477 Billion representing 0.21% of the global economy.[28]

Apart from Nigeria’s economic strength and opportunities, the country is an important actor in international politics, a diplomatic force to reckon with in the West African Sub-region, and the seventh most populous nation in the world. All these attributes make Nigeria a major international player of African origin thereby making its concerns international ones.[29] Despite the many opportunities that abound in Nigeria, the country still grapples with issues of insecurity bordering on terrorism. On the other hand, Kenya boasts of Africa’s eighth largest economy with a GDP of $115.99b.[30] region’s GDP and is a regional hub for several foreign investors and multinationals.[31]

Somalia on its part is a prominent country in Horn Africa and the 3rd Poorest in Africa with a GNI per capita of $430[32] and the second poorest country in the world[33] with GDP of   $8.13 Billion at an annual growth rate of 2.4%.[34] However, it is not all bad for Somalia as it has the highest fertility rates in the world childbearing is considered a fundamental responsibility of the Somalian woman even though most of those children die in infancy due to poverty and malnutrition.[35]

According to the Global Terrorism Index 2023, Somalia and Nigeria made it to the list of the twenty deadliest terrorist attacks in occurred in the world alongside other countries[36] Furthermore, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, Nigeria’s Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) and Boko-Haram, and Egypt’s ISIS-SP topped the list of twenty (20) groups with deaths attributed to in 2022. Additionally, 11% and 6% of all terrorist deaths recorded globally in 2022 were accounted for by Somalia and Nigeria respectively.[37] Somalia’s Al-Shabaab is currently second most deadliest terrorist group in the world behind ISIS with approximately 2000 fatalities to its credit in 2022. Somalia, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria were among the top-ten countries most impacted by terrorism in 2022. This hopes to bring to the fore the incident of terrorism in Africa to provide a better understanding of why the governments of interest in this paper – Egypt, Nigeria, Somalia, and Kenya have resulted in deradicalization as a traditional approach to its ongoing military actions in a quest to find a last solution to the problems of terrorism in their respective countries.[38]

1.7.      The Egyptian Example

Egypt always had two dominant opposition actors in its political arena since the 1970s. Those are the Muslim Brotherhood, which never endorsed violent extremism as it considered it un-Islamic, and some jihad groups primarily the al-Jama’a al-Islamiya and al-Jihad. The former represented an opposite model of the Muslim Brotherhood as their religious and social activism was shaped around the use of violence in furtherance of their causes. Things took a different turn after the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 by the al-Jihad group giving way to bloody confrontations between members of the group and government security forces where scores were killed, imprisoned, and exiled.[39]

The al-Jama’a aIslamiya and al-Jihad suffered such a humiliating defect in the hands of government security forces coupled with a damped morale over its stagnated leadership’s inability to attract recruits to the groups decided to do a self-appraisal and critique of the justification for the use of violence and radical concept of the society and politics. By 1997, revisionism led by one of the incarcerated leaders of the al-Jama’a al-Islamiya led to the groups’ collective renunciation of violence in 2022 while al-Jihad also chose the same path by committing to peaceful activism.[40]

The Egyptian government took cognizance of the efforts put in place in the terror groups’ collective revisionism and decided to take ownership of the program despite initial skepticism. It started to soften its measures against inmates in the prison charged for violent extremism by allowing them to receive visitors at designated times while allowing commanders in custody to take a prison tour from time to time to spread their newfound heterodox ideologies to the low ranks in custody.[41]

This approach got additional impetus with the publication by the former emir of the al-Jihad group titled ‘Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World’ containing the ideological revisions of the movement. The LIFG later joined in the revisionist movement and its imprisoned leaders were later approached and offered to release their fighters in exchange for their leader’s public repudiation of Islamist extremism. All these put together have made the government’s actions over the years on countering violent extremism incremental and cost-effective.[42]

There are currently not many details of the nitty-gritty of the Egyptian deradicalization model. But, Recently, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) co-signed a document titled ‘Advancing Holistic, Whole-of-Government and Whole-of-Society Approaches in Curbing the Spread of Terrorism in Africa’ with the Australian government’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the UNDP. The project aims to develop the capabilities of Africans through the introduction of a bespoke range of programs that will be implemented by the CCCPA. One of the overarching aims is to groom religious communities that will possess the skills and knowledge required to deconstruct and refute extremist narratives and enhance the capabilities that would address some of the identified drivers of violent extremism through early intervention community engagement, and the deliberate challenge of terrorist propaganda.

Additionally, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) has rolled out a first-of-its-kind approach to preventing violent extremism in Africa called the Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELL) to empower community and religious leaders as well as Influencers with the skills and learnings needed to support in building communities that will become resilient to radicalization and extremism that ultimately leads to terrorism by raising individual barriers that make it difficult to join terrorist groups.[43]

1.8.  The Kenyan Example

In Kenya, the government in 2016 launched a new strategy for countering violent extremism after years of deploying heavy military tactics that never produced the desired result. The policy document which emphasized deradicalization over military actions was named the National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NCVE) and implemented by the country’s National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) an agency domiciled within the presidency and responsible for coordinating all the government’s counterterrorism efforts in Kenya.[44]

The new approach was necessary given that despite the countermeasures from a security point of view in the form of attacks on terrorist bases and cells, arrest, detention, and incarceration of the radicals, heavy border security and surveillance, Al-Shabaab continued to be a plausible threat to Kenya hence the need for a new approach. The NCVE is discrete because incorporated the prevention and counter-radicalization fundamentals into its existing counterterrorism approach.[45] Just as it is in most of the countries where the amnesty program was introduced for radicals, the civil society organizations, the affected communities, and the returning radicals were skeptical about the government’s actual intentions and the viability of the program. Nevertheless, the government announced that 1,500 members of the Al-Shabaab had surrendered to the government by February 2016.[46]

Sadly, observers and concerned stakeholders of Kenya’s amnesty call have expressed worry over a couple of issues which include the fact that the amnesty call was announced in a vacuum without a policy or legal framework to back it up. It was also speculated that those who took up the amnesty call did not get the kind of livelihood support that they expected or promised by the government. Furthermore, there was confusion around eligibility for the program and it is not clear whether the program was shoved down their throats or the returnees were allowed to join the program of their volition as in the case of Nigeria where a ‘buy-in’ proposal is shared with the target radicals/clients. Kenya’s security forces have been accused of killing the returning terrorists extrajudicially and this action on their part has created a perception in the minds of intending participants that the program is nothing but a trap.[47] It is not clear what the different elements of the Keyan deradicalization programs are so far.

1.9.      The Nigerian Example

For the Nigerian government, it is a different ballgame. It resorted to kinetic military actions from the onset of insurgency in 2009 and allocated a substantial amount of its budgetary allocations to this cause unfortunately, this has not yielded the expected results. The government then resorted to the soft approach of introducing deradicalization a strategy that some countries of the world started experimenting with for years now. So, in 2015, the government took a bold step when it introduced Operation Safe Corridors (OPSC), a deradicalization program aimed at deradicalization, rehabilitating, and reintegrating low-risk terrorists. The OPSC is managed by the Nigerian defense headquarters.[48]

The government developed strategies for combating insurgency by creating a series of frameworks to guide stakeholders in responding to deradicalization at different levels. Responding to these challenges includes identifying the root causes and an enactment of the National Assembly called the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition (Amendment) Act 2022, the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST), and other policy frameworks aimed at coordinating these measures at the national level. ‘With this, the government provided clear legal and policy directions that connect peace, security, and development at all levels.[49]

Some of the legal and policy frameworks that provide the blueprint and guidelines for the ongoing deradicalization programs in Nigeria are the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act (2022), The National Security Strategy developed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in 2014, the National Counterterrorism Strategy (NACTEST) 2016, and the Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (2017).[50]

Nigeria now has three deradicalization programs that support terrorist defectors and their families. The prison program works with the clients in its facilities who are either convicted and serving their jail terms or awaiting trials. During their time in prison, the client is exposed to therapeutic, vocational, and educational sessions and more. However, the program is not imposed on the inmates as the program is sold to them upon arrival and they are allowed to decide whether to participate.

The next is the OPSC program which was mentioned previously and coordinated by the Nigerian Army. The OPSC receive defecting terrorists and conduct cross-agency profiling of them before categorizing them as high or low-risk and then deciding which of the series of deradicalization program is good for them. The Yellow Ribbon Initiative is a NEEM Foundation’s deradicalization program that provides support to women and children associated with terrorism by providing psychological therapy and reintegration programs.[51]

The focal point officers selected from different participating government agencies on a need basis are responsible for overseeing the implementation of the legal and policy frameworks relating to the prevention of violent extremism in Nigeria. Nonetheless, all the activities around counterterrorism which includes all deradicalization programs are coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Insurgents have been defecting in their droves since the commencement of the amnesty program in 2016. A military source in a 2021 publication said that as many as 7000 fighters have defected alongside their families and captives.[52]

Still, the actual number of defectors is not known as the terrorists including the foot soldiers and their commanders have continued to defect from their groups in recent times. In a recent workshop on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE), and Disengagement, Disassociation, Reintegration, and Reconciliation (DDRR) in Abuja titled ‘Overview of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), a presenter that 2167 clients have graduated from the OPSC program since its inception. 2559 clients graduated in March 2023 and the OPSC center is currently being expanded to take more clients as more and more terrorists continue to defect.[53]

1.10.        The Somalian Example

The deradicalization program in Somalia starts with the call for amnesty as emphasized by the government before the terrorists are profiled and taken in for rehabilitation. To give impetus to the ongoing call for amnesty which predates 2012 under the leadership of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s first term in office where an amnesty document was developed for the first time.[54] The document was regrettably considered insufficient as it was not specific on how the radicals should defect and the modalities for surrendering to authorities. So far, the law on amnesty is still pending as a draft document in Somalia. In the absence of any specific law on amnesty, the declaration by the president becomes the primary tool for granting amnesty.

Even at that, the declaration is problematic because it is communicated verbally without a clear scope since it is not expressed as policy or legal frameworks where eligibility and expected benefits are made explicit.[55] In Somalia, one program was considered comprehensive and seen to have a national outlook and that is the National Program for the Treatment and the Handling of Disengaged Combatants (NPTHDC) developed in 2012 and ratified in 2013.[56] The program is expected to care for high and low-risk defectors and detainees. The defectors are sorted into two distinct categories high-value defectors and low-value defectors. This is usually the first step before they are profiled into high or low-risk renegades. High-value defectors are individuals who negotiated their leniency terms with the Somalian government.

The women’s rehabilitation program was introduced in 2019-2020 and rehabilitation centers for women were established in 2020 too. It is not clear how many of these centers exist in Somalia for women but there were three (3) such rehabilitation centers for men across Somalia by the end of 2015. For children, UNICEF supported the establishment of six (6) rehabilitation centers for them as of 2017. Men, women, and children have different Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that guide how the screening exercise should be conducted on them but regardless of which of the categories the SOP has applied an initial assessment of the defectors must be completed in the first 72 hours.[57]

The difference between the low and high-risk defectors is in the role they played as radicals. Low-risk defectors are often considered the foot-soldiers, mechanics, and the like while the high-risk terrorists are those who have participated and made strategic decisions as commanders of a terrorist group. While the low-risk terrorists are the target of deradicalization and move to the rehabilitation phase of the program after the required screening, high-risk terrorists are referred to the military courts for possible prosecution and perhaps imprisonment. The Somalia National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) is the coordinating government agency that receives the defectors who turned themselves in enthusiastically. They are the ones sent to the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) facilities.[58] There is no transparency on how the defectors are screened before profiling as the process is said to be politicized, a flaw that affects the general outcome of the program. The Somalian DDR is a collaborative effort among the Somalia National Army (SNA), the Police Force, and the NISA.[59]

It is not clear if prison-based deradicalization as seen in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Philippines, etc., is practiced in Somalia but program participants are exposed to classroom education, vocational and skills acquisition, non-specialized mental health support, and tailored and responsive case management at their respective DDR centers.[60]  2017 research conducted on Somalia’s deradicalization program at Serendi shows the problem of reintegration after rehabilitation as most of the program’s participants do not find it safe to return to their communities so, they sought shelter in neighboring communities in Somalia. Another problem was the sense of insecurity on the part of some of the program’s participants who had been threatened by Al-Shabaab for defecting. Just as the case of Nigeria. Most of the members of the

receiving communities are often skeptical about the outcome of receiving the ex-radicals back into their communities and this sense of anxiety is attributed to the low level of awareness among the citizens of Somalia.[61]


Summary of Deradicalization Approach for Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Somalia briefly

Country Deradicalization Programs Year Introduced Target Legal/Policy Frameworks/Blueprint Implementing & Coordination Agencies Status
Egypt *Revisionism of previously held ideologies.



*Training of Imams and Community Leaders to develop skills and knowledge required to deconstruct and refute extremist narratives.


*Enhance the capabilities that would address some of the identified drivers of violent extremism through early intervention community engagement.


*Deliberate challenge of terrorist propaganda.


*Inmates access to visit whilst still incarcerated.

1997 Not clear Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELL). The Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) Ongoing
Kenya Not clear 2016 Low-risk terrorists, women, and children associated with terrorists. National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NCVE) *The National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).


*The Kenyan Police Force.

Nigeria *Strategic communication on the amnesty offers via diverse mediums.


*Vocational training on bespoke skills.


*Access to education.


*A revised teaching of Quranic text that provided the basis for violent ideologies.


*Therapeutic sessions and counseling.


Social and economic empowerment is required for reintegration.

2015/2016 Low-risk terrorists, women, and children associated with terrorists. * The Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition (Amendment) Act 2022.


*The National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) (2016).


*The National Security Strategy (2014).


*The Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (2017).


*The Office of National Security Adviser


*The Nigeria Defense Headquarters.


*Nigeria Correctional Services.


*The NEEM Foundation.


*European Union.






*Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corps.


*Nigeria Immigration Services.


*State Security Services.


*Impacted State governments.


*Government Ministries, Agencies, and Parastatals.

Somalia Low-risk terrorists, women, and children associated with terrorists. National Program for the Treatment and the Handling of Disengaged Combatants (NPTHDC) *Somalia National Army (SNA).


*The Police Force.





1.11.        Conclusion

As the fight against terrorism intensifies globally is evident that nations of the world have gained considerable experience in its diverse approach through the appraisal of lessons learned. One such lesson is that a security-based counterterrorism approach is still relevant and necessary but no longer a sufficient measure. Furthermore, there is now the need to channel more resources to a preventive and not reactive approach to containing terrorism. Additionally, the members of the communities are expected to play significant roles in preventing violent extremism in their various communities.[62]

For a successful deradicalization program to happen it is important to understand the uniqueness of each of the participating individuals and groups and the motivation for getting radicalized in the first place. The case of Mugisha an ex-radical member of Al-Shabaab from Rwanda is a typical example of a person getting radicalized due to rejection from his biological father. One of the lessons learned from Mugisha’s journey to terrorism and eventual deradicalization is that you cannot develop tailored psychological support for a radicalized person if you haven’t first understood the dynamics that led to the individual imbibing extremist views. Another success factor during Mugisha’s deradicalization was that most of the security personnel involved in the process treated him humanely. His deradicalization became successful because most of the people he encountered in the process showed him empathy.[63]

Finally, there is no one-fit-for-purpose approach to developing deradicalization programs aimed at countering violent extremism as has been expounded in this paper. However, it is important to note that different countries are beginning to appreciate the many benefits that come with the soft approach to countering terrorism and adopting these measures to soothe those evolving realities. Though Egypt started this remarkable evolution on the African continent much of what it has done and done is not readily available in open source for public use. The same applies to Somalia and Kenya which decided to replicate the strategy. All these underscores the fact that the subject of deradicalization is still at its formative stages hence the need for more work and research to be dedicated to understanding its essentials across the board.

1.12.    Policy Recommendations

This study therefore proffers the following recommendations.

  • Governments must design vigorous legal and policy frameworks providing legal and authoritative justifications for their choice of deradicalization programs which:
  • must be explicit on the target participants for the programs.
  • must define each of the programs and their attendant benefits.
  • must establish the involvement of internal and external stakeholders and their expected levels of involvement.
  • must establish accountable government agencies and their implementing partners.
  • must establish modalities for monitoring and evaluation of expected and actual outcomes.
  • There must be transparency that breeds accountability on the part of the government since most of the country’s budgetary allocations are channeled to the program. The citizens and members of the general public must be kept informed of the needs, progress made, the resources required, and the support desirable. This strategy would give the people a sense of ownership of the program especially for countries that have adopted the community-whole approach to deradicalization.
  • Finally, there is the need to establish objective metrics for tracking the successes of the programs.

1.13.        References and Bibliography

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Anneli, Botha, John N. Ndungutse, Isaiah Ochieng, and . Wycliffe Burudi. ‘EAPCCO CTCoE Issue Paper 4 / 2022: Lessons Learned from the Deradicalization of Mahmood Mugisha’. Counter-Terrorism Excellence Center, 2022.

Bankole, Idowu. ‘2,167 Repentant Boko Haram Graduate from FG’s Programme – Official’. Vanguard News (blog), 12 May 2023.

Boucek, Omar Ashour, Christopher. ‘De-Radicalization in Egypt, Algeria, and Libya’. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Accessed 27 September 2023.

cairopeacekeeping. ‘CCCPA : Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism’. Accessed 24 September 2023.

Canada, Public Safety. ‘National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence’, 21 December 2018.

CIDOB. ‘CIDOB – What Does Radicalisation Look Like? Four Visualisations of Socialisation into Violent Extremism’. Accessed 24 September 2023.

Council on Foreign Relations. ‘Nigeria Considers National DRR Agency Amid Boko Haram Setbacks’. Accessed 29 September 2023.

‘Deradicalization: Experiences in Europe and the Arab World’. Accessed 27 September 2023.

Downie, Richard. ‘Kenya’s Struggling Amnesty Experiment: The Policy Challenge of Rehabilitating Former Terrorists’, 26 October 2018.

European Eye on Radicalization. ‘The Counterterrorism Framework in Nigeria: Strategic and Operational Pitfalls’, 2 October 2018.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. ‘Terrorism’. Folder. Accessed 20 September 2023.

‘Global Terrorism Index 2023’. Institute for Economics & Peace, March 2023. file:///C:/Users/NG008041/Downloads/GTI-2023-web.pdf.

Hamzawy, Amr, and Sarah Grebowski. ‘From Violence to Moderation: Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya and al-Jihad’, n.d.


Institute for Economics & Peace. ‘Global Terrorism Index 2022: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism’. Sydney, March 2022. file:///C:/Users/NG008041/Downloads/GTI-2022-web_110522-1%20(5).pdf.

International Peace Institute. ‘A New Approach? Deradicalization Programs and Counterterrorism’, June 2010. ‘Kampala Bombings: Justice at Last?’ ISS Africa, 31 May 2016.

Khalil, James, Rory Brown, Chris Chant, Peter Olowo, and Nick Wood. ‘Deradicalisation and Disengagement in Somalia’, n.d.

KKIENERM. ‘Counter-Terrorism Module 4 Key Issues: Defining Terrorism’. Accessed 24 September 2023. //

Kruglanski, Arie W., Jocelyn J. Bélanger, and Rohan Gunaratna. The Three Pillars of Radicalization: Needs, Narratives, and Networks. Oxford University Press, 2019.

maarten. ‘What Are the Stages of Radicalisation? | ACT Early’, 11 August 2021.

Maclean, Ruth, and Ismail Alfa. ‘Thousands of Boko Haram Members Surrendered. They Moved In Next Door.’ The New York Times, 23 September 2021, sec. World.

‘Nigeria GDP – 2023 Data – 2024 Forecast – 1960-2022 Historical – Chart – News’. Accessed 26 September 2023.

Nonis, Pete. ‘Kenya’s Strategic Importance: Within East Africa and Beyond’. BCIU (blog), 5 January 2023.

OHCHR. ‘OHCHR and Terrorism and Violent Extremism’. Accessed 24 September 2023.

Oluwole, Victor. ‘African Giants: The 10 Largest Economies on the Continent’. Business Insider Africa, 49:32 200AD.


Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. ‘Refworld | Kenya Unveils New Strategy for Tackling Terror’. Refworld. Accessed 28 September 2023.

‘Regional Expert Consultation on FRAMING THE DEVELOPMENT SOLUTIONS TO RADICALIZATION IN AFRICA’. UNDP, July 2015.—summary-consultation-report—Draft-Final-Oct.pdf.

Shboul, Hani Ahmed. ‘Discussing Islamic Fundamentalism and Its Role in Politicizing Religion’. Open Journal of Political Science, n.d.

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Statista. ‘Africa: GDP by Country 2022’. Accessed 26 September 2023.

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The Washington Institute. ‘Counter-Radicalization and de-Radicalization in Egypt and Libya: Returnees and Foresight’. Accessed 29 September 2023.

Thurston, Alex. ‘Strategic Posture Review: Nigeria’. World Politics Review (blog), 13 November 2012.

Trip, Simona, Carmen Hortensia Bora, Mihai Marian, Angelica Halmajan, and Marius Ioan Drugas. ‘Psychological Mechanisms Involved in Radicalization and Extremism. A Rational Emotive Behavioral Conceptualization’. Frontiers in Psychology 10 (6 March 2019): 418523.

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[1] International Peace Institute, ‘A New Approach? Deradicalization Programs and Counterterrorism’, June 2010,

[2] KKIENERM, ‘Counter-Terrorism Module 4 Key Issues: Defining Terrorism’, accessed 24 September 2023, //

[3] ‘Deradicalization: Experiences in Europe and the Arab World’, accessed 27 September 2023,

[4] KKIENERM, ‘Counter-Terrorism Module 4 Key Issues’.

[5] ‘Terrorism’, Folder, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 September 2023,

[6] ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’, United States Department of State (blog), accessed 24 September 2023,

[7] ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’.

[8] ‘The EU’s Response to Terrorism’, 15 December 2022,

[9] ‘OHCHR and Terrorism and Violent Extremism’, OHCHR, accessed 24 September 2023,

[10] KKIENERM, ‘Counter-Terrorism Module 4 Key Issues’.


[12] ‘What Is Radicalization? – C-REX – Center for Research on Extremism’, accessed 24 September 2023,

[13] ‘What Is Radicalization?’

[14] ‘Regional Expert Consultation on FRAMING THE DEVELOPMENT SOLUTIONS TO RADICALIZATION IN AFRICA’ (UNDP, July 2015),—summary-consultation-report—Draft-Final-Oct.pdf.

[15] Simona Trip et al., ‘Psychological Mechanisms Involved in Radicalization and Extremism. A Rational Emotive Behavioral Conceptualization’, Frontiers in Psychology 10 (6 March 2019): 418523,

[16] Arie W. Kruglanski, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, and Rohan Gunaratna, The Three Pillars of Radicalization: Needs, Narratives, and Networks (Oxford University Press, 2019), 35–44.

[17] Kruglanski, Bélanger, and Gunaratna, 38–39.

[18] Kruglanski, Bélanger, and Gunaratna, 41.

[19] Public Safety Canada, ‘National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence’, 21 December 2018,

[20] maarten, ‘What Are the Stages of Radicalisation? | ACT Early’, 11 August 2021,

[21] ‘CIDOB – What Does Radicalisation Look Like? Four Visualisations of Socialisation into Violent Extremism’, CIDOB, accessed 24 September 2023,

[22] Omar Ashour Boucek Christopher, ‘De-Radicalization in Egypt, Algeria, and Libya’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed 27 September 2023,

[23] International Peace Institute, ‘A New Approach? Deradicalization Programs and Counterterrorism’.

[24] John Horgan, ‘DERADICALIZATION PROGRAMS’:, n.d., 2–3.

[25], ‘Kampala Bombings: Justice at Last?’, ISS Africa, 31 May 2016,

[26] Botha Anneli et al., ‘EAPCCO CTCoE Issue Paper 4 / 2022: Lessons Learned from the Deradicalization of Mahmood Mugisha’ (Counter-Terrorism Excellence Center, 2022),

[27] Victor Oluwole, ‘African Giants: The 10 Largest Economies on the Continent’, Business Insider Africa, 49:32 200AD,

[28] ‘Nigeria GDP – 2023 Data – 2024 Forecast – 1960-2022 Historical – Chart – News’, accessed 26 September 2023,

[29] Alex Thurston, ‘Strategic Posture Review: Nigeria’, World Politics Review (blog), 13 November 2012,

[30] ‘Africa: GDP by Country 2022’, Statista, accessed 26 September 2023,

[31] Pete Nonis, ‘Kenya’s Strategic Importance: Within East Africa and Beyond’, BCIU (blog), 5 January 2023,

[32] ‘Poorest Countries in Africa 2023’, Wisevoter, accessed 26 September 2023,

[33] ‘7 Interesting Facts About Somalia’, accessed 26 September 2023,

[34] ‘Somalia GDP Value & Rate 2023 | Per Capita | GDP Structure’, Take-Profit, accessed 26 September 2023,

[35] ‘7 Interesting Facts About Somalia’.

[36] ‘Global Terrorism Index 2023’ (Institute for Economics & Peace, March 2023), file:///C:/Users/NG008041/Downloads/GTI-2023-web.pdf.

[37] Institute for Economics & Peace, ‘Global Terrorism Index 2022: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism’ (Sydney, March 2022), 13–14, file:///C:/Users/NG008041/Downloads/GTI-2022-web_110522-1%20(5).pdf.

[38] Institute for Economics & Peace, 20.

[39] Amr Hamzawy and Sarah Grebowski, ‘From Violence to Moderation: Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya and al-Jihad’, n.d., 2.

[40] Hamzawy and Grebowski, 3.

[41] ‘Counter-Radicalization and de-Radicalization in Egypt and Libya: Returnees and Foresight’, The Washington Institute, accessed 29 September 2023,

[42] ‘Counter-Radicalization and de-Radicalization in Egypt and Libya’.

[43] ‘CCCPA : Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism’, cairopeacekeeping, accessed 24 September 2023,

[44] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘Refworld | Kenya Unveils New Strategy for Tackling Terror’, Refworld, accessed 28 September 2023,

[45] Refugees.

[46] Richard Downie, ‘Kenya’s Struggling Amnesty Experiment: The Policy Challenge of Rehabilitating Former Terrorists’, 26 October 2018,

[47] Downie.


[49] Hani Ahmed Shboul, ‘Discussing Islamic Fundamentalism and Its Role in Politicizing Religion’, Open Journal of Political Science, n.d., 12.

[50] ‘The Counterterrorism Framework in Nigeria: Strategic and Operational Pitfalls’, European Eye on Radicalization (blog), 2 October 2018,

[51] ‘Nigeria Considers National DRR Agency Amid Boko Haram Setbacks’, Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 29 September 2023,

[52] Ruth Maclean and Ismail Alfa, ‘Thousands of Boko Haram Members Surrendered. They Moved In Next Door.’, The New York Times, 23 September 2021, sec. World,

[53] Idowu Bankole, ‘2,167 Repentant Boko Haram Graduate from FG’s Programme – Official’, Vanguard News (blog), 12 May 2023,

[54] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’ (European Union Agency for Asylum, February 2023), 14,

[55] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’, 15.

[56] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’, 15.

[57] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’, 17.

[58] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’, 18.

[59] ‘Somalia: Defection, Desertion and Disengagement from AlShabaab’, 19.

[60] James Khalil et al., ‘Deradicalisation and Disengagement in Somalia’, n.d., 23.

[61] Khalil et al., 25.

[62] ‘CCCPA’.

[63] Anneli et al., ‘EAPCCO CTCoE Issue Paper 4 / 2022: Lessons Learned from the Deradicalization of Mahmood Mugisha’, 15–16.

Table of Contents


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