White collars on the necks of clergy from Uganda. Intricate kofi designs on the heads of Shiekhs from Djibouti. Public service announcement messages in six languages – Arabic, Swahili, English, Somali, Amharic and Portuguese.This characterized the diversity at the ‘Voices of Mutual Respect’ workshop held from 1 to 3 July 2019 in Djibouti.
25 leaders from different faiths from Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti participated in this workshop. The workshop was hosted by the IGAD Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE) with funding support from the Global Engagement Centre of the US State Department. It was the very first time that teams from Mozambique were participating in activities hosted by ICEPCVE.
The goal of the workshop was to deepen understanding of religious and non religious ideological narratives being used by violent extremist groups to radicalize vulnerable individuals, to enhance skill in developing effective alternative and counter narratives against violent extremism, and to discuss strategies for religious collaboration in the Horn of and East Africa.
“An in-depth analysis is required to create an understanding of the correlation between religion and violent extremism. We also need to candidly discuss the disconnect between efforts of religious actors and government actors. I am impressed by the diversity in this room to discuss this sensitive topic of religion and acts of terror,” said European Union Chargé d’Affaires to Djibouti Patrick Geysen in his opening remarks.
US Ambassador to Djibouti, H.E. Larry Andre echoed his comments. “Bad leadership leads to hopelessness which leads to violence. False ideologies make a part of this tragic story. You are all in the fight against violent extremism and this forum is a good place to get ideas to tackle this problem. I commend ICEPCVE for taking the step to lead in the cooperation between different stakeholders in order to counter violent extremism.”
Representatives from various foreign missions in Djibouti also attended the opening session – German ambassador H. E. Anke Holstein, Somali Ambassador Mohamed Haji, Turkey’s Second secretary and Deputy Chief of Mission, Saudi Arabia’s Lafi Almutairi, and United Arab Emirates’Charge d’affaires.
The participatory three-day workshop equipped participants with skills in developing public service announcements specific to the seven countries. The modules were carefully selected, through which participants learnt about the rise of religious extremism, the role of religion in preventing and countering violent extremism, and audience selection, message development, objective setting and a distribution plan for the public service announcement.
Sheikh Wadah Mohamed (L) and Sheikh Yayo Osman from Djibouti at the workshop.
Collaboratively, seven public service announcements in 6 languages were developed: 4 radio messages (in Portuguese, Somali, English and Swahili), 1 poster in Arabic and 2 television spots (in Amharic and English) were produced with the following key messages were:
- Tanzania: Do not kill yourself and don’t kill others, targeting youth aged 15 to 35 years
- Kenya: Welcome back, don’t be afraid, targeting al-Shabaab returnees
- Djibouti: Protect the community from the threat of violent extremism, targeting religious leaders and imams
- Ethiopia: Create your peace zone, targeting youth aged 18 to 30 years
- Somalia: Somalia is rising; our history is unique, targeting youth aged 15 to 35 years
- Uganda: Uganda is precious, targeting young upcoming clerics
- Mozambique: Respect our differences, targeting youth aged 15 to 28 years
These are available here.
Group work by the ream from Uganda – L to R: Sheikh Juma Bakhit Cucu, Rev. Canon Diana M. Nkesiga (back on camera) and Sonia Matovu Okot-Chono
“I am very excited by the work from every country, and especially the distribution plans. Let us know how we can support you to ensure that these public service announcements reach the intended audiences,” said ICEPCVE Director Dr Simon Nyambura.“On behalf of the IGAD Executive Secretary Amb. Mahboub Maalim, we are honoured and privillleged that you accepted our invitation. We have always received the support of IGAD Member States, and Tanzania who always support us.We are grateful to the US government whose financial support makes it possible for us to address the issues of violent extremism in the region.”
In her closing remarks Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Djibouti Jessica Banuls said, “I think that there are great messages here. You have narrowed down to the target group and thought through the dissemination methods and timing that will resonate the best. I loved the use of different images and sounds and poetry that was very evocative.”