Ansar al Sunna: local trajectories of violent extremism in Kwale County, Kenya

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This event will examine the results of a RUSI study of the challenges of extremisim in Kwale, providing a local context and a broader review of the area’s history of socio-political marginalisation.

Kwale County on Kenya’s south coast has experienced frequent, if sporadic and low-level, extremist violence over the last decade. Much of this has been interpreted by the media as a three-way battle for supremacy between al Shabaab loyalists, moderates, and members of the security forces. Indeed, any act of Islamist extremism in Kenya is too often immediately connected to al Shabaab and ‘returnees’. In reality, and as is so often the case, the local context is much more complicated.

To better understand Kwale’s challenges with extremism, RUSI supported a qualitative study in 2019 focused on a little-known Salafi entity, assessed to be closely aligned with extremist violence. This group, Ansar al Sunna, follows the teachings of the late Sheikh Abdul Aziz Rimo and its emergence reflects the interaction between local challenges and the dynamics of global Islam. The panel will discuss the findings of the study and highlight the nuanced and varied local motivations behind violent Islamist activity on Kenya’s south coast. The evolution of Salafi thought in Kenya will be explored alongside a broader review of the area’s history of socio-political marginalisation.


  • Christopher Hockey -  Research Fellow , Royal United Services Institute
  • Professor Hassan Mwakimako -  Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya


  • Hawa Noor - Doctoral Research Fellow, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BISGSS)

The event will chaired by Gayatri Sahgal, Research Manager, RUSI

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