Radicalism rising in Tanzania but no panic yet

Like its East African neighbours — which are battling the effects of a huge unemployed youth population — Tanzania now has to contend with religious radicalism.

According to Chief of Tanzania Defence Intelligence Maj-Gen Venance Mabeyo, radicalism is at the “fighting stage but it is not linked to foreign militant groups.”

Speaking at the launch of a report by Twaweza on radicalism, Maj-Gen Mabeyo pointed at poverty as a major driver of radicalism but said there is not much that the military can do without co-operation from the population.

“Military people live in the barracks. The radicals live with the people in society. The solution to this problem must involve the people who live with the radicals in society,” he said.

“You use the army where there is an army to fight. These radicals here don’t have arms.”

But his views contradicts the public perception of the problem and its solution, according to research findings made public by Twaweza.

According to the study, 88 per cent of Tanzanians are aware radicalism was on the rise in the country, but they believe Tanzania is still a safe place to live.

Twaweza executive director Aidan Eyakuze said about 50 per cent of those sampled believe that the police, military and intelligence services should be used to crack down on extremist groups and on communities in which they live.

Announcing the research findings on Thursday, Mr Eyakuze said even though an overwhelming majority of citizens say Tanzania is a secure nation, 56 per cent of citizens are concerned about the threat of future attacks on Tanzanian soil.

Also, while only five per cent of respondents reported hearing of attempted recruitment by radical groups, three out of 10 citizens worry about radical organisations trying to recruit their family members in the future.

Religious radicalisation does not happen abruptly, the intelligence chief said. It is a process that starts from the pre-radicalisation stage, then the self-identification stage, the indoctrination stage, followed by the fighting stage — the jihad stage.

First, one begins to feel they are better practitioners of their religion than others. Then, recruiters move in for indoctrination before the recruited act on what they have been fed on.

The assessment of the military showed that the police can handle most domestic radicalism in the country.

Maj-Gen Mabeyo said that the 10-cell arrangement used in the past to identify visitors in villages needed to be enhanced.