Security experts, policy-makers, members of the diplomatic community and the civil society met in Kigali on Tuesday to brainstorm on the best strategies to combat terrorism.
The meeting was organized by Rwanda Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS).
According to the Executive Secretary of RCSS, Lt. Col. Joseph Nzabamwita, the experts looked at the causes of terrorism and violent extremism as well several case studies of counterterrorism including Rwanda
“We looked at comprehensive measures of countering terrorism and extreme violence through the use of military and political measures,” said Nzabamwita.
He added that during the meeting, it was observed that government programmes are yielding positive results in counter terrorism and cited the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) which has repatriated thousands of former combatants of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group.
“This is one softer way of handling terrorism. In the process they are re-educated and integrated in the community,” he said.
Retired American Colonel, Thomas Dempsey, made two presentations on ‘Strategies for Counterterrorism: Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism’ and ‘Disaster Response and Consequence Management.’
Dempsey has worked as Director of African Studies in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College.
He said that counter-radicalization can be done through community-based initiatives and focusing on countering the extremist message and reducing recruitment incentives among others.
Dempsey noted that counterterrorism programmes vary widely, and each is tailored to unique conditions and needs.
“Data on effectiveness is limited, especially in terms of recidivism, there is also general consensus that programmes are not successful against “hardcore extremists” –which generates significant challenges in rule of law terms and the costs of countering terrorism are high, and rise quickly as programs become more comprehensive and target audiences become larger,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Dr. Richard Rutatina, made a presentation on the ‘Threat of Violent Extremism in the region: Rwanda’s Perspective’ where he said that extremism manifests itself in different forms, including ideological, religious racial ethnic, environmental, globalization, animal rights among others.
He added that Africa is preyed upon by ethnic terrorism and noted that the East African region has had chronic conflicts based on extremism.
“Rwanda has had the worst of violent extremism with two genocides within a single generation. The country is still facing threats posed by the Genocidaires, their allies and sympathizers. Rwanda has come up with various strategies to counter violent extremism,” Rutatina said.
He added that Genocide is a climax of racial or ethnic extremism and gave the genesis of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rutatina noted that since the stopping of the genocide, various politico-military organizations based on violent extremism have been formed.
“These include; RDR a precursor of FDU-Inkingi whose first president was Victoire Ingabire, FDLR, PDP of Deo Mushaidi. You have heard of Dream Initiative led by Faustin Twagiramungu and the renegades who deserted RDF, including Kayumba Nyamwasa, Patrick Karegeya Gerard Gahima and Theogene Rudasingwa-they formed a party called Rwanda National Congress,” he said.
Referring to the Kayumba group, Rutatina said that it is clear in their publications that they are advocating for another genocide and they are being supported by some African and European countries.
Rutatina noted that the government has put in place several measures and policies to counter terrorism, including amendments and initiation of new laws.