Youth, Peace and Security in Kenyan Counties

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Author: Mary Hiuhu

Nairobi, 21 December 2022. – Increased incidences of crime across Kenya are a major socio-economic policy concern.

This is linked to the growing number of youths who are taking to crime, and those left vulnerable to becoming the targets and recruits of organized networks including traffickers in drugs and persons, especially in major cities and towns. Probable causes of this increase in youth’s involvement in criminal activities include: high poverty levels, idleness and disillusionment occasioned by increased unemployment rates despite more youth having access to education. 

Peer pressure and use of drugs and substances of abuse contribute to crime among the youth. The country’s security landscape is also characterized by various conflict drivers such as competition for power, poverty, youth underemployment and unemployment, transnational crime, terrorism, recruitment of vulnerable youth into militia groups and criminality and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Enforcement of the existing laws is critical in ensuring peaceful co-existence.

The Youth have to be included in the peace building processes in decision making on matters related to peace building. Inclusion and participation of young people enhances their capabilities and affords them the opportunity to improve their lives as well as those of their communities. Further, engagement of youth in these and other constructive processes keeps them constructively pre-occupied thus averting/reducing their vulnerability to involvement in unlawful acts.

Working with multi-agency groups, families and communities to engage the youth in promoting peace and secure crime free neighborhoods. Youth and communities will be sensitized on the need to uphold and promote peace for harmonious living. Supporting inclusion of youth as specific stakeholders in community driven security and peace building initiatives, as they are both largely affected by conflict and instrumental to peace building. 

Being the larger proportion of the community, the youth are often the main causes and victims of crime and conflict and thus their involvement in this initiative reduces their susceptibility and exposure to such occurrences.

Recognizing and including the role of youth led and youth-based peace-building organizations in peace building activities and promoting a culture of peace. 

The youth form an integral part of the society and as such are best suited in taking up the lead role in matters that most affect them as it gives them a sense of responsibility and belonging.



Kenya’s Constitution (2010) lays down elaborate measures for undertaking public participation at both national and county levels. Youth in Kenya are a dynamic demographics that voluntarily associate either in groups, parties and in activities such as sports, they are already exposed to associating; be it at the national or ward level, respective governments should use these already established networks to meaningfully engage with them.  

The government should step up with youth friendly policies that will create employment opportunities for the youths who were hit hard by COVID pandemic by e.g., boosting Youth Enterprise Fund that will expand self-employment and reducing the time of loan disbursement. Youth businesses should also get tax incentives to motivate them do businesses. Creating or expanding social halls and resource centers youth friendly by installing things like free internet, so that the youths can aces internet easily which is a very crucial tool today.



COVID-19 has affected all sectors of life. Governments and their development partners should use this pandemic to train more skilled people (health, security, leadership, social etc.) that are well resourced to tackle any other immergence of a pandemic.

There have been upsurge of innovations from the youth aimed at combating the pandemic, raising awareness and helping them cope in order to make up for lost livelihoods as a result of government’s public health directives. Youth have also proved to be entrepreneurial but their biggest challenge has been inadequate financing and shrinking market linkages. The government can therefore utilize some of the accessible, youth friendly and universal services like disbursing grants and low interest loans via mobile phones instead of commercial banks and put conducive infrastructure. They should be capacity build also, and the rise of TVET in the country is commendable, however, those who cannot afford, the government should have extension officers to ensure they benefit.  

Youth, at all levels, should be made to understand that it is in their best interest to engage, and partake in governance, CSOs and other entities should ensure that policies and structures in place reflect the will of the marginalized, youth being one of the marginalized groups. Representation of youth voices should be deliberate, and aptly enforced at all levels, from the national to the ward and even village level. There should be community champions, and deliberate effort to build a constituency of youth. 

Youth are the majority, and the most productive demographic in the country. With the COVID-19 effects, this also means that they are the ones who have been affected most. A quick look at the informal sector, for instance, paints a glaring picture, with all the containment measures we continue to witness, this lot has suffered the most. CSOs should have a youth engagement strategy from the inception stage through. Youth question should be mainstreamed across both state and nonstate actor interventions, in the long run, public policy will not only reflect the will of the people, but of the youth too. 

We must particularly target youth demographic in our programming, there is a program devoted to look at the plight of youth, women and PWDs. 

Since COVID-19 started, several baselines were undertaken by different stakeholders to assess what impact it has caused to their livelihoods and capacity build them to engage their respective leadership structures; engage the community, government and lobby for their inclusion.  





Resource based conflicts is considered to be the single most obstacle to peace and security in some parts of Northern and Eastern Kenya. 

Conflicts in these environments are products of deep seated historical structural issues such as marginalization, poverty and general under development. The recent new pressures such as the rise of Islamists groups like Al-Shabab have worsened the communities’ susceptibility to armed violence and altered the nature of ‘traditional’ conflict.

During their control, the private militias easily recruited the young people then indoctrinated and radicalized them. Most of them ended up abandoning productive life styles which in turn has continued to affect them negatively.  Young people have been both the main actors as well as victims of protracted conflict that has plagued the county. The age bracket of 15 and 25 years is the most sought after by militia groups to take up guns and get involved in terror activities

Moreover, with social exclusion of young people in the cultural Somali community, more young people are lured and engaged in doctrine radicalization, which increases their chances of being recruited by militias. Idle youth are also susceptible as they see little employment opportunity in the traditional labor market. Those who have been part of militia groups are often recruited back due to lack of alternatives or inability to integrate into the community.  Local and national governments are in a compromised state and unable to provide meaningful support to these youth.  With these factors in mind, the risk of clan and other militia groups recruiting youth remains high in the county. 

Recently, much of introduction of devolution in the country has been a relief for many people who have more opportunities to have a better life and the county primed for economic development. Skilled workers are surely needed. Demobilizing, training and re-integrating idle local youth in key fields will directly contribute to a stronger economy, community needs and ultimately, the stabilization of the county.

Protecting youth involved in peace building there is need to have key elements associated with Youth Peace and Security that include Youth recruitment into VE, Building of Community awareness and resilience, addressing radicalization and associated drivers. More significantly by building collaboration and partnership between Youth, their grassroots community with National and Local/District/Region Government.

Engage creative and innovative approaches in ensuring that Youth and their Grassroots communities, the most vulnerable segment targeted by VE actors are mobilized, organized and their capacity build besides being linked with other relevant State and Non-State actors. 

Women, Youth Peace and Security stakeholder’s participation in creating effective and resonate Counter narratives and other elements such as creation of sustainable Women, Youth Peace and Security/P/CVE structures at the grassroots not only compliment state efforts but also generate new Knowledge that is engaged to influence practice and policy at higher levels of intervention.



Women may become among the most vulnerable groups during conflict for reasons that also extend beyond violence. Reports from human rights advocacy groups document many examples of the exploitation and abuse of women and children affected by conflict. Women in refugee and IDP camps, and while fleeing, face sexual exploitation and a lack of physical security. This is especially true in households without men, and also in those cases in refugee or IDP camps where women are heads-of-households. Generally speaking, “women are particularly susceptible to marginalization, poverty and the suffering engendered by armed conflict, especially when they are already victims of discrimination in peacetime. 

Women may be particularly vulnerable if they are held up as ‘symbolic’ bearers of cultural and ethnic identity and the producers of the future generations of the community. […]That being said, men also have to be clearly recognized as vulnerable, as in some conflicts as many as 96% of the detainee populations are men and 90% of the missing are men. They are also prone to be wounded or killed as legitimate targets as members of armed forces or groups, who still largely recruit amongst male populations.” But women are also armed fighters alongside men. “Whether as victims or combatants, women often shoulder an additional burden due to traditional gender roles: their labor, strength and determination maintain their families and communities during war and throughout the long, slow, process of rebuilding the peace

A significant criticism advanced to Research project and other Youth Peace and Security intervention projects such as the Counter Narrative based on Youth Peace and Security has been that despite the projects developing immense information and new knowledge, there is limited documentation of the same beyond the targeted reports. 

Youth organizations receives a lot of invitation to contribute to Youth Women, Youth Peace and Security/P/CVE related conferences, seminars, workshops among other platforms owing to this experience generated from the projects such as Research. Most of the other participants always enquire if there is a knowledge and or resource platform that they can consult to learn more and with it strengthen their own work. Such enquiries have also been made by National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) who are always keen to follow our work and its findings.  

Most youth organizations have never deliberately developed a mechanism to tap this information and knowledge, analyze and package it into resource documents either as theory papers, guidelines, and manuals among other useful Youth Women, Youth Peace and Security/P/CVE documents.

Based on this key finding the YPS agenda there is need to have a deliberate platform to gather, analyze and disseminate Grassroots Communities and Youth Peace and Security knowledge materials. Which includes:

  • Summarizing and Presenting National CVE strategy and Local/District/Region Level action plans into simple accessible documents for the Grassroots communities and the Youth.
  • Harnessing the grassroots Youth and Security knowledge and packaging it into a case studies and engaging the same to contribute to other Youth Peace and Security knowledge platforms such as the Hedayah, IGAD Centre among others.
  • Organizing Grassroots Youth Peace and Security knowledge Forums at the local level.
  • Review of the National Youth Policies and strategy papers in implementation of Youth Peace and Security agenda.
  • Youth Peace and Security at the grassroots especially in terms of effective interventions, tapping on to new knowledge and mainstreaming Youth Peace and Security beyond its traditional actors to include formal and informal groups in sectors such as business, environment, and sports among others. 

Based on this it was realized that despite the existence of the Youth Peace and Security capitated youth groups, there is a need to network them further beyond their localities and national platforms.

This way Young people will be able to share knowledge, experiences and lessons beyond their localities resulting into better engagements. The Networks will also help develop localized interventions that resonate at the local levels before joining hands at Local/District/Region and national levels to advance the global YPS agenda. This vibrant Grassroots Youth YPS Network backed by creative, innovative and resonating YPS strategies will assist in ensuring young people are not only subjects in the YPS debate but are part of the solution finding entity. Their organization will also assist them to be engaged at higher levels of intervention i.e. invitations to YPS conferences where they can learn and share their lessons.



Behavioral change among youth to prevent conflict and violence: and resolve conflict peacefully while also creating sustainable conditions for peace.

Increased awareness of youth mainstreaming and meaningful participation of youth in influencing policies and strategies in efforts of development and building resilience.

The solution to developing more effective youth programs often can be found in the institutions, policies, and programs that already exist. Local youth‐serving institutions in many countries are trying to make a difference but lack the expertise and experience needed to have a significant impact. The approach to international youth development relies on working through and building the capacity of these local institutions, i.e., community‐based organizations, local youth groups, NGOs, religious organizations with youth programs, and government agencies such as ministries of youth and sports, labor, and education.

By undertaking research on best practices in youth-led development, the fund enhances awareness of youth-led development and the urgency to ensure that youth perspectives are incorporated into local, national, and international development policies and strategies. Providing best practices and innovative ideas on active youth development that can be shared globally for other conflict and fragile context. 


Documenting these best practices and analyzing their impact to the community, their influence to governance structures, consequent inclusion of youth by various stakeholders in decision making among other will be interesting to have.

Lack of education and training is among the numerous socio-economic challenges that the communities are grappling with. Young people have not had access to uninterrupted education or skills training in the past two decades. Out of desperation, boredom, lack of alternatives, frustration and discontentment, many idle youths get trapped in a vicious cycle of drug abuse and crime. 

As a reflection of frustration, over 60% of youth has intentions to leave the county for better livelihood opportunities if given an opportunity, in absence of this chance, Al-Shabaab and other militia groups provide economic incentives to lure them. 

The absence of socio-cultural activities and other important forms of leisure which are critical for physical and psychological development coupled with the prevailing harsh socio-economic conditions contributes to propensity of young people who are idle towards aggressive and violent behavior. This will consequently undermine stability in the community. Idleness, lack of attention, absence of opportunities for training and employment are factors that predispose the youth to regrouping for destructive engagement or recruitment into existing militia groups. Such groups will militarize clans, revive criminal gangs, facilitate drug trade, carry out abductions, trigger terror activities and roll back the gains made in stabilizing the region if efforts are not put in place to avert this.  

Aligning the County Government CVE Action Plans and National CVE Strategy to Grassroots P/CVE intervention. There has been a gap to devolve this document and their strategy recommendations to the grassroots. This can include summarizing the documents in a language and temperament that resonate and is accessible to grassroots communities and their youth populace. This will make simple but effective grassroots P/CVE interventions part of the bigger County and National efforts.


The capacity building for the youth in informal settlements with the aim to build on the resilience of youth. This involve building of skills that will help the selected youth and other community youth groups who to attend various project management and entrepreneurship training that will be necessary in their project implementation while also promoting entrepreneurship. The training covers modules on project management, organizational management, financial management, reporting, communication, monitoring, evaluation and developing of business plans, marketing and financial inclusion.  The training should also provide a space for discussing the individual projects in depth while also restructuring the objectives of the Youth, Peace and Security along the same idea so as to achieve the intended goals

To ensure that the objective is successful; the Government and Development partners should provide a physically, socially and emotionally safe and supportive environment for young people to participate in learning and empowerment activities. 

It also acknowledges the trauma that many young people who are at risk of being radicalized and those who have suffered, and offer a safe space to share experiences. The organization encourage the project’s direct and indirect beneficiaries to be sensitive to divides and inequalities among and between young people, their peers and their communities. This involves fomenting stereotypes, or creating potentially difficult or dangerous situations for young people before, during and after their participation and disarmament activities.



Many youths today have missed regular school, general education about health, the opportunity to participate in sports and cultural activities, and lessons to help them develop language, computer literacy, and other skills.  Moreover, they have not had many opportunities to meet and work alongside youth from other sectoral community differences such as clannism, or contribute to the development of their community in a meaningful way.  By bringing together idle and high-risk youth in a skills development program, many of these issues will be addressed

Provision of improved educational opportunities for all social groups, including the young people who have missed out on such opportunities, will help enhance the way towards a more stable county. Enhanced job chances after training will reduce the young people’s propensity for joining militia groups and help them redefine their role in society rather than consider violence as a viable option for sustaining themselves. This will contribute to making the ground less fertile for recruitment by militia groups.  


The main focus of the project is capacity development for analysis, review and reformulation of relevant social policies through participatory processes involving young people and other relevant stakeholders. These processes will lead to the production, roll out and dissemination of a Training Module for Promoting Sustainable Peace through National Youth Policies. They will also support partnership building and coalition development on issues regarding youth, peace and security and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the target countries. This project seeks to promote sustainable peace through the National Youth Policies in the framework of the 2030 Agenda. The UNDESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) has rolled out the project to support capacity development and multi-stakeholder (local, national, regional and international stakeholders) dialogues, engagement and action on youth peace and security. The main output of the project was production of a Training Module for Promoting Sustainable Peace through National Youth Policies.

UN DESA/UN HABITAT organized 4 workshops in Kenyan counties of Mombasa, Mandera, Kisumu and Nairobi in March 2022 and targeted 120 participants from multi sectoral representation which included Government Officials, Policy Makers, Business Communities, NGOs, CSOs, CBOs, Faith Based Organizations, Community Leaders and Youth who gave their input to the CVE action plans and strategy paper and raised the need to have inclusion of youth in decision making and policy process.


On 11-13 April 2019, the UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) in collation with UNDP, Commonwealth Secretariat and UN Habitat organized in Kenya an inception capacity building and consultative workshop on “Promoting sustainable peace through the national youth policy” which was successful as the County Government of Nairobi published a Youth Bill and Youth Countering Violent Extremism Bill which has been tabled in County Assembly for Approval in October 2021.

In part, the workshop sought to enhance the capacity of youth and diverse stakeholders to tackle issues related to youth, peace and security through the national youth policy. 

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