Muslim leaders and scholars from Eastern and Southern Africa sign declaration against Violent Extremism in the region

Jul 27, 2017

Sheik Mohammed Nur Abdullah – Chairman of Ibn Sereen Institute, Former President of ISNA (centre) together with Imrana Abdallah of IIPC (left) and Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, the Mufti of Uganda at the Summit on Countering, Responding and Preventing Violent Extremism in Africa. The summit for Muslim religious leaders and scholars was held in Kampala, Uganda. Photo UNDP Uganda, 2017

In support of efforts to address violent extremism in Africa, 30 Muslim scholars from East and Southern Africa have joined their counterparts from West and Central Africa by reaffirming the Abuja Declaration on Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism that calls for more transparent mosque management, the participation of women and youth in decision-making processes, and training of religious leaders and institutions to deliver content more effectively.

The Abuja Declaration was agreed at a two-day conference of traditional and religious leaders held in Abuja, Nigeria in October 2016.

The Kampala Regional Conference Statement on the Reaffirmation of the Abuja Declaration on Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism in Africa was agreed at a regional conference held in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, during 15-16 May 2017, with participants from Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The conference was organized by the International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and was chaired by Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, the Mufti of Uganda.

“Terrorism is the epitome of injustice because it takes innocent lives and the Koran calls all Muslims to act justly. Acts of terrorism are therefore haram, forbidden in Islam,” Sheikh Mubajje said at the Kampala meeting. He added that that it was the responsibility of Muslims to stand up and educate people about Islam and that it does not promote violent extremism.

In the Abuja Declaration, the traditional and religious leaders state that “extremism and radicalization are caused by ignorance or misunderstanding of religion, mismanagement of marginalized communities, economic insecurity, and political instability, as well as perceived or real injustice against individuals or entire communities.”

Additional recommendations to address these challenges include the development and improvement of religious education, and training of imams on the use of mass media and communication tools to better interact within their communities.

The Declaration also calls on religious leaders to “create a social platform that connects faith to action and provides a sense of purpose for the youth.”

The traditional and religious leaders also decided to establish a region-wide religious leaders’ network to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas and practices.

The Declaration’s commitments focus on strengthening the resilience of communities and religious institutions and providing them the tools to identify early warning signs and engage in early action to help prevent and respond to violent extremism.

“If violent extremism is not addressed today, it threatens to curtail Africa’s development prospects for decades to come,” said Ms. Rosa Malango, UNDP’s Resident Representative for Uganda and the UN’s Resident Coordinator.

“The fact that violent extremism has been affecting Muslims and Muslim communities most, highlights the need for the engagement of Muslim religious leaders if we are to help communities that are vulnerable to the activities and operations of violent extremist groups. Communities need to be empowered to be a vital part of the solution to the growth of violent extremism, and to this end your leadership as religious leaders is imperative,” Rosa Malango said.

The Kampala conference is part of UNDP’s broader work on preventing and responding to the growth of violent extremism in Africa through a development approach.

Building on the Abuja and Kampala religious leaders’ meetings, IIPC in partnership with UNDP, will establish a region-wide network of religious leaders, organisations and institutions focusing on community resilience to facilitate the continuous exchange of information, ideas, and good Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) practices.

UNDP Uganda is working with the Government of Uganda to develop a national PVE strategy, and is involved in regional consultations led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and supported by UNDP Africa and Japan, to develop a regional PVE strategy for Eastern Africa.

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