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East African States see rising threat from Militant Group al-Shabab

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers

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Maleeshiyada Al-shabaab. Image source: VOA
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Once a threat primarily in Somalia, the militant group al-Shabab has grown and expanded its aspirations, operations, and aims, and is preparing to wage a long war in East Africa, according to analysts and experts on the region.

East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which works for peace, prosperity and regional integration among its eight member states, declared this week that al-Shabab is now a “transnational” organization projecting threats of extremist violence far beyond Somalia.

“Even if al-Shabab were to be defeated tomorrow I think it has inspired a generation of jihadists from across the region, from different countries, who are likely to continue,” says Matt Bryden, a director and senior analyst for the Sahan Foundation, which conducted IGAD’s regional study on al-Shabab.

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“Al-Shabab is clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem, and requires a concerted international response,” the IGAD report said, noting that al-Shabab is active is six countries of the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers.

Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“In East Africa, among Swahili-speaking populations, this goes beyond al-Shabab as a Somali organization sending agents to operate in neighboring countries,” says Bryden. “Al-Shabab’s propaganda is now heavily populated with radio, video, and articles in Kiswahili. It’s clearly targeting recruits in East Africa.”

Abdirahman Sahal, director of a Mogadishu-based center on extremism, agrees with Bryden that al-Shabab laid the foundation for this regional struggle a long time ago. But he says what helped most is that the organization controlled territory in Somalia where it was able to attract foreign fighters, prepare them and send them back to their countries of origin.

“They rule land, they collect tax, they have roots. Therefore they are in a position to invite others [and] open institutions to train them,” he said.

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Al-Shabab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti and made at least two attempts to strike inside Ethiopia. And the IGAD report emphasizes that the scope of the threat the group poses throughout East Africa has only increased.

Sahal says al-Shabab’s operational capabilities are a key factor. “They only need one or two people to attack a key place, to blow themselves up,” he noted.

If the threat from al-Shabab is to be countered, Sahal said, regional countries have to attack the group’s bases inside Somalia, where plots are orchestrated.

“Seizing their bases disrupts their administration and sources of revenue. They will be busy as fugitives, hiding, and cannot execute all the plots inside and outside the country,” he said.

“But as long as they have space where they can drive their cars, live normally and administer their organizational functions, it will be easy for them to attack.”

IGAD came to the same conclusion, that it needs to counter al-Shabab both inside and outside Somalia. But whether the countries of the region can exert more pressure on al-Shabab inside Somalia, by cooperating at a level they have not achieved during the past nine years, remains to be seen.

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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    The Al-Shabab militant group is now no longer a small terror organisation operating from Somalia. It has also fixed its roots in neighbouring countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and other such East-African states. If it is not kept under check it would become the new ISIS.

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Witnessing Violence in Schools May Affect Kids’ Grades

The effect was the same for hidden or veiled violence, which included theft and vandalism

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Impact of violence makes children suffer academically
Impact of violence in the neighborhood, on children. Pixabay

Witnessing violence in high school may lead to emotional distress among children and affect their academic performance later, suggests a new research.

The findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggest that schools should seek to empower bystander students who are not directly involved in acts of school violence, rather than giving them messages to stay uninvolved.

For the study, the researchers statistically tested the relationship between witnessing school violence in Grade 8 and subsequent anti-social behaviour (drug use, delinquency), emotional distress (social anxiety, depressive symptoms), and academic adjustment (school achievement, engagement) in Grade 10.

The research involved nearly 4,000 high-school students in Canada.

“There were several take-home messages. First, witnessing school violence in Grade 8 predicted later impairment at Grade 10. Second, bystander effects were very similar to being victimized by violence directly,” said study co-author Linda Pagani, Professor at University of Montreal in Canada.

Violence
Exposure to violence in schools may affect kids’ grades. Pixabay

The researchers examined different forms of violence and established the fact that witnessing major violence including physical assaults or carrying weapons is associated with drug use and delinquency later.

The effect was the same for hidden or veiled violence, which included theft and vandalism.

Witnessing minor violence (threats and insults) resulted in an increase in drug use, social anxiety, depressive symptoms, and decrease in engagement and participation at school, the findings showed.

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“Most students reported witnessing violence. It is clear that approaches to prevention and intervention should include witnesses as well victims and perpetrators and target all forms of school violence,” Michel Janosz of University of Montreal said.

“Supportive family and community relationships also prevent emotional desensitisation to violence which contribute to aggressive behaviour in youth,” Janosz said. (IANS)