How terrorism thrives on weak family structures


Kenya Defence Forces officers in Somalia. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The whole world awoke to dreadful news on the eve of this year’s Easter holiday about gory bomb blasts in Sri-Lanka. The blasts at the three churches and two hotels left at least 207 people dead and 405 wounded.

The two suspected hotel suicide bombers in the incident were from an affluent family. The Muslim brothers were sons of a wealthy, politically-connected spice merchant. Sri-Lanka`s Minister of Defence confirmed that one of suicide bombers received his postgraduate studies from Western institutions. He studied in the UK and later proceeded to advance his studies in Australia.

The bombers came from financially stable families. They were independent and had financial sway. Besides, they were well educated having received their education from developed states. The terror suspects were members of the extremist Islamic group National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ).

Likewise, terror suspects locally exhibit similar traits. Mohammed Abdirahim Abdullahi, a suspect in the 2015 Garissa University terrorist attack, is the son of Bulla Jamhuri location chief in Mandera County. Another mastermind of the massacre, Abdirahim Mohamed, was a law student at the University of Nairobi. On February 2016, police arrested Hassanaen Ahmed, a University of Nairobi biochemistry student, as he was reportedly leaving the country to travel to Libya to join an Islamic State group. Later in May that year, Gloria Kavaya, a microbiology student at Kenyatta University, was also arrested after she disappeared from school, changed her name and embarked on what police said were plans to travel to Syria.

In a more recent attack where gunmen stormed the DusitD2 Hotel, one of the active shooters is believed to be a son of a retired military officer. The emerging group of terrorists is debunking the traditional belief of youth being recruited to the terror activities majorly due to poverty and /or lack of employment.

The new trend shows that youths end up joining terror groups due to poor parental care and lack of proper guardianship. Societal disintegration leaves the youth highly susceptible to radicalisation. Family forms the basic yet most vital unit of the society.

The concept of family as a social institution is under threat of extinction. Today it is commonly recognised that roughly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Notably, many family units which are focal point for mentoring the next generation into adulthood are disintegrating, leaving youths with no role models.

Due to economic hardships, parents work round the clock to fend for their families. They are hardly at home and when they get home, they are too consumed to pay attention to their teenagers.

With such a vacuum to be filled up, the youth fall into the wrong hands. Social disruptions in families make them feel humiliated, threatened and helpless. Terrorist leaders seek support from such.