US wants to know why so many Kenyan men are joining Al Shabaab and is offering Kenya's $600,000 for the trouble

The Kenyan male masculinity and its relationship to violent extremism is set to come under intense scrutiny.

“Kenyan society, while diverse in its ethnic and cultural composition, is uniformly patriarchal and highly prescriptive of gender expressions and identities,” states a funding opportunity notice posted on Saturday by the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism. “Socially, males are expected to be tough, heterosexual, aggressive, unemotional and achieving.”

The programme prospectus states pressures to conform to these “ideals of masculinity” is immense and is driving Kenyan men into the hands of Alshabaab, who exploits consequent vulnerabilities and offers opportunities to fulfill the roles of Kenyan male identity.

Al-Shabab militia is responsible for many terror attacks in Kenya which has claimed several lives, the most notable being the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, that killed 67 people and the 2015 attack on Garissa University in Kenya that killed more than 120 people.

According to PBS, Kenyans contribute more foreign fighters to Al-Shabab, than any other country.

Up to $592,500 (Sh61 million) will be available for the proposed programme that will encourage “male-to-male dialogue and training on issues of gender and encourage stronger social and familial support structures,” the notice says.

“Fathers and male community leaders will be equipped to better recognise the signs of radicalisation and intervene more effectively,” the announcement says.

In 2016, when the Kenyan government announced an amnesty programme, more than 1,500 Kenyan youths from Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi and Lamu counties and other parts of the country including Central Kenya who had been recruited by the terror group and even received military training in Somalia surrendered, highlighting just how vulnerable Kenyans are to joining Al Shabaab.

The programme should involve “creative approaches to developing healthy gender identities for men and boys as a resilience against VE [violent extremism] threats,” the prospectus states.

NGOs based in the United States and other countries are welcomed to apply for the administration of the proposed programme

For-profit firms may not apply, the notice stipulates and the programme is expected to run for up to two years starting this June.

The deadline for submitting applications is February 26.

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