Training religious leaders about preventing violent extremism in Cameroon

Dec 20, 2016

The workshop brought together both Muslim and Christian leaders, of whom 15 were women. Photo UNDP Cameroon

Since 2014, Cameroon’s security crisis, caused by Boko Haram, has exposed the vulnerabilities and obstacles that undermine integration of disadvantaged groups, especially women and youth.

To prevent youth from being radicalised, UNDP trained religious leaders from the Far North Region of Cameroon on how to identify radicalisation and how to speak with radicalised youth.

The religious leaders were trained to identify early signs of radicalisation in young people and to prevent violent extremism. They also received leaflets to share with young people. Following the workshop, the religious leaders have been meeting young people and participating in events to discuss radicalisation, with the aim of preventing young people from becoming radicalised.

The workshop, arranged in 21–22 September, was held particularly for religious leaders because they, as active members of communities, are aware of the causes and consequences of radicalisation within their communities. Therefore, religious leaders are best placed to prevent it. Held in Maroua, the capital of the Far North Region, the workshop brought together both Muslim and Christian leaders, of whom 15 were women.

“The workshop was a refresher training for the leaders to learn certain concept definitions such as radicalisation and de-radicalisation. The exchange of opinions during the session allowed us to get rid of some stereotypes by expanding our understanding on the issue of radicalisation in various forms,” one of the leaders, Imam Mahamat Goni Ali said.

The workshop is part of a UNDP project “Preventing Radicalization and Strengthening Early Recovery efforts of Women and Youth in Response to the Deteriorating Human Security Situation in the Far North of Cameroon”, which is funded by the Government of Japan with a US$2.1 million grant. It is implemented in the regions of Mayo-Sava, Mayo Tsanaga, Logone and Chari, which are the regions in Cameroon most affected by the attacks of Boko Haram.

The project focuses on empowering women through employment, while training youth on business planning to provide a stable income. It also aims to reduce the risk of radicalisation of youth and communities, and strengthen their ability to prevent and respond to violent extremism.

The Far North is the poorest of Cameroon’s regions. Around 70 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar per day. Poverty and the presence of Boko Haram can expose young people to violent extremism. There is a need to take care of young people so that they are not radicalised and if it happens, offer them help to be able to fully re-integrate into their communities.

To understand the needs of disadvantaged groups, UNDP organised dialogue forums in 2015. The forums provided important information about the needs of young people and women living in urban and rural areas. In 2016, UNDP, in partnership with the authorities of Cameroon and with financial support from the Government of Japan, has undertaken to implement the recommendations from the forums. This includes defining an action plan and a timetable for a regional dialogue.

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