(With Kunaal Sharma)
Western governments have come to the consensus that countering violent religious extremism is essential to improve governance in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the global countering violent extremism (CVE) agenda faces two challenges. First, CVE programs are insufficiently motivated by theoretical models of deradicalization, impeding our understanding of what components of bundled CVE programs work best. Second, CVE programs have thus far not been evaluated using rigorous randomized impact evaluations, which assess participants’ attitudes and behavior.
In this project, we design and implement a CVE program in the Eastleigh suburb of Kenya’s capital Nairobi that puts theories of de-radicalization to test. We plan to enroll 2,000 individuals, randomly sampled on the streets of Eastleigh, and assign them to deradicalization seminars that aim to foster inter-religious tolerance within Eastleigh. The seminars differ along three salient dimensions: content, contact and authority. First, we vary the content of the seminars. In particular, we differentiate between theologically motivated seminars that explicitly communicate that the Bible and Koran endorse tolerance and peace, and economically motivated seminars that communicate the risks of extremism to local businesses. Second, we vary the composition of the seminars differentiating between homogenous classrooms and heterogenous classrooms where Muslims and Christians learn together. Third, we vary whether the seminars are taught by religious authority figures or peer-educators. We compare the different treatment conditions to a placebo intervention that teaches participants about the environment. We track respondents’ attitudes and behavior at multiple points in time, before and after the intervention.