Constitutionalism: Embracing National Values as a means of Preventing Violent Extremism

Constitutionalism: Embracing National Values as a means of Preventing Violent Extremism

I have heard so many Kenyans brag about our Constitution. How it is one of the best in the world and that if protected and upheld can transform Kenya as a whole. However, my biggest concern is that to a large extent despite efforts by the civil society and the government to conduct civic education, many Kenyans still do not understand the Constitution. It is one thing to quote the Constitution (I have witnessed a lot of this recently on Facebook and Twitter with the current political climate), however staying true to it is a totally different thing.

I am of the opinion that violent extremists continue to take advantage of our lack of adherence to national values. Extremists attack our way of life and values and exploit our freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Although violent extremism has been an issue since the 18th century it has become prevalent in the 21st century. Today, many of us have lost regard to the basics that define our humanity and citizenship; our values. Do you know what our national values are?

Chapter 2Article 10 (2) of the Constitution spells out the national values and principles of governance as:

  1. patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people;
  2. human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized;
  3. good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and
  4. sustainable development

Radicalisation of people into joining violent extremism is a process that involves coercion into adopting certain ideological beliefs and dehumanizing of people who do not conform to these beliefs. Violent extremists do not view other people as humans therefore do not value or respect human dignity. They will attack, destroy and kill because they do not see the value of your life. To them, you are trifling and the world can go on without you!

Preventing violent extremism requires a proactive rather than a reactive approach. It means cultivating a culture of respect for human rights, social justice, social inclusion, non discrimination and protection of marginalized communities and a great deal of patriotism. It is possible that in embracing these values we can put up a united front against the enemies of our state. It also calls out for national unity; acknowledging that the plight of a young man in Majengo is the same as that of a young man in Westlands or Kondele.

For many Kenyans joining extremist groups, their reasons have been tied to social marginalization, political exclusion, lack of access to justice or resources, and repression or abuse by state and security services. They have been radicalized into believing they are soldiers and have found a sense of identity in a ‘worthy cause.’ For some of them, the problem of social exclusion has been a generational problem. They do not believe in the justice system therefore seek revenge through joining these groups. To us, these people are extremists or terrorists, to their loved ones, they are soldiers fighting for what they believe is right.

When we genuinely feel a part of something, whether a family or community, we develop a strong desire to protect it. It is therefore very important that we work towards the enjoyment of rights of everybody so that we may uphold our Constitution to the latter and protect our nation.

Justice be our shield and defender. May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty.


Evans Ouma

Stretchers Youth Organization

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