Supporting Community Engagement and Tradition in East Africa


I’d like to share a recent effort by Spirit of America to support community engagement, improve relationships, and better connect security forces with the communities they seek to protect in East Africa.

Iftar is a significant religious observance for Muslims around the world during the holy months of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. The iftar meal is taken each evening just after sunset.

A community leader from Lamu County, Kenya discussed security and local needs in the Boni Forest with the assembly of other local leaders, Kenyan polices and military, and their US Army advisors.

In Kenya, our US Army partners and their colleagues from the Kenyan National Police Service (NPS) working to defeat al-Shabaab in the northeastern Lamu County near the Somali border served an iftar meal for key leaders from across the county. This provided an opportunity to discuss the area’s security situation and ways to counter violent extremism. However, just as importantly, the meal allowed the NPS to build informal ties and trust with their influential guests, key allies in the fight against al-Shabaab.

Across the border in Somalia an elite Somali counterterrorism (CT) force fighting al-Shabaab, hosted a similar event on their base with Spirit of America support. This unit and their US military advisors invited Lower Shebelle District leaders, elders from the nearby village of Wanlaweyne, and officers from other African Union military units in the area. This meal allowed the CT commander and fighters to better understand the security concerns of local villagers in the district and to explain their tactics and operations. At the end of the meal, leaders thanked the unit commander for the meal and expressed their excitement at having a credible and effective security force in the district to counter al-Shabaab.

Building relationships and gaining a better understanding of local perspectives are invaluable in the population-centric fight against extremism and al-Shabaab. Ramadan, and these iftar meals more specifically, allowed Somali and Kenyan security forces to do just that while countering the prevailing extremist anti-government messaging.

You can learn more about this and similar Spirit of America efforts to support US objectives and partners around the globe here.

Chris VJ
Deputy Director of Field Operations

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