Al Qaida Recruitment Trends in Kenya and Tanzania

Published in: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, v. 28, no. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2005, p. 1-10

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by William Rosenau

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At first glance, Kenya and Tanzania, the scene of some of Al Qaida's most impressive attacks, would appear to be fertile ground for recruiting militants into the global Islamist jihad. Substantial Muslim populations, widespread poverty, poor policing, inadequate border control, and systemic political and economic corruption would seem to make these East African countries potentially rich environments in which to attract new Al Qaida members. However, other factors essential to the terrorist recruitment process are largely absent. Despite claims that the traditionally tolerant Muslim populations of Kenya and Tanzania are being radicalized, the evidence suggests that Islamist radicals have in fact made little headway. Although individuals may have forged links with Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden and his network have few followers. Of Course, this is subject to change. But in the near term, absent an environment of radicalism, as in a major recruitment ground like Pakistan, it is difficult to see how Al Qaida can expect to attract more than a handful of new members. That said, the United States could do far more in the region to prevent the emergence of violent Islamist extremism.

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