By Emiko Perea
Countries with major terrorist insurgencies, including Al Qaeda and the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab, surround Tanzania. According to the Global Terrorism Database, there were 47 incidents of terrorism from 2008 and 2019 in Tanzania. This number appears small compared to Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, which had 680 terrorist incidents within the same time frame. While incidents of violent extremism in Tanzania are not as well publicized, these incidents still instill fear and distrust in communities.
Acts of violent extremism in Tanzania are especially prominent during the election season, where political tensions rise among radicalized young people. For the last two years, the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) supported campaigns to promote peace during the election season in Tanzania. On September 29, 2021, GPF Tanzania and the Tanzania Building Future Organization (TABUFO) collaborated to conduct a stakeholder’s workshop to strengthen cooperation to counter violent extremism and terrorism.
The workshop “Amani Yetu, Uhai Wetu” (“Our Peace, Our Life”) included religious leaders, ward executive officers, and representatives from the Regional Peace and Security Committee from the Msimbati and Nanguruwe wards. The peace-based dialogue brought key stakeholders together to create a plan to effectively build peace and prevent violent extremism from emerging on the border of Tanzania and Mozambique.
Participants reflected on the ongoing security challenges in Mtwara, especially for the wards that are close to the Mozambique border. Some of the key issues addressed were the bombings on the border with Mozambique, the threat of extremist groups, and citizens being unable to leave their homes at night without risk.
“Awareness raising on prevention of violent extremism and counterterrorism is ongoing. In every Friday mosque session I keep telling Muslim believers that our religion has no interest at all with terrorism or violent extremism.” --Sheikh Sharif, Sheikh of Msimbati Ward.
As they identified the threats to security, participants also expressed a commitment to contribute to peace. “We have built a very strong partnership between citizens who are educated through the Amani Yetu Uhai Wetu Project,” said a participant from the police ward. “The local government leaders and religious leaders strengthen peace and security at this area. We have been recording every suspicious action relating to violent extremism or terrorism.” Other police representatives proposed education in response to minor social conflicts.
Religious leaders and stakeholders committed to work together in promoting peace through providing education in churches, mosques, village assemblies and door-to-door canvassing to familiarize the community about violent extremism and countering terrorism in the community. Participants shared their interest in continuing to work and communicate with GPF in the future for peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism.
Global Peace Foundation Tanzania, TABUFO, and the government of Mtwara are committed to ensuring the community of Mtwara is aware of and participates in the prevention of violent extremism, peaceful conflict resolution, and participatory peace building.
These partners in Mozambique strive to ensure that the peace-building approaches in Tanzania are also adopted on the Mozambique side to reduce extremism, social conflict, and the recruitment of youth into extremist groups.
For more information on GPF peacebuilding work in Tanzania, visit Tanzania | Global Peace Foundation