Somalia’s government has launched a digital counter-extremism center that aims to dissuade young Somalis from supporting militant groups such as al-Shabab and Islamic State.
The Somali Ministry of Information says the center will carry out campaigns on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and state-run media designed to promote stability in the Horn of Africa nation, which has seen little peace during the past 30 years.
“The center plans to raise public awareness campaign on countering violent extremism, security and peace building, good governance, civic education, and implementing programs that can provide confidence to the people by discrediting terrorists’ narratives of violence and destruction,” said Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman.
During the opening ceremony Wednesday, Osman said the center will specifically target al-Shabab “by exposing their brutality, and hence weakening its following and public support.”
The al-Qaida-linked militant group has carried out dozens of suicide attacks in Somalia during the past decade, including one in October that killed more than 500 people.
“This will be an opportunity to contribute to the overall peace and stability in Somalia,” Abdurahman Yusuf al-Adala, the director general of Somalia’s Ministry of Information told VOA. “We will provide accurate and useful information to young people, which in turn helps them to understand the benefits of democratic institutions in Somalia.”
The new center was created in response to criticism from moderate Somali clerics who said the government has not done enough fight extremism and violent ideologies on the internet and social media platforms.
Al-Adala said clerics and elders will be given an opportunity to produce video messages for social media. He said young Somalis will have an “open forum” to talk about terrorism and factors that drive youth to join the militants.