Human rights groups and prominent Muslim leaders stated the government targeted Muslims for extrajudicial killing, torture and forced interrogation, arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, deportation, and denial of freedom of assembly and worship. Security officials briefly closed and then reopened four mosques in Mombasa and threatened to close other mosques or madrassahs around to the country, stating the mosques were linked to incitement of violent extremism.
Prominent human rights groups, including Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) and Haki Africa, stated in the press the government was conducting a deliberate campaign of assassination against Muslim clerics. The press reported Haki Africa said it had documented 21 cases of prominent Muslim businesspeople, clerics, or community leaders who were killed on the coast between 2012 and 2014, and whose cases remained unresolved. Government officials denied any connection to the deaths.
After a series of violent terrorist attacks, in April the government initiated “Operation Usalama Watch” (“usalama” means “security” in Swahili) with the stated goal of detecting migrants lacking resident status, arresting and prosecuting persons suspected of engaging in terrorist activities, and preventing crime and lawlessness. Prominent Muslims said the operation unfairly targeted Muslims and ethnic Somalis in Nairobi and Mombasa. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority issued reports on the operation, citing discrimination and ethnic profiling.
On several occasions, the government raided and banned meetings at Muslim places of worship and forcibly broke up meetings as part of its security operations. On February 2, several hundred Muslims gathered at the Masjid Musa Mosque in Mombasa for an announced conference on jihad. Police raided the conference, which they had previously banned, stating the mosque had ties to the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab. Moderate Muslim leaders had also characterized the mosque as being in the hands of extremists or radicalized youth. According to Muslim activists and media reports, police used force to stop the meeting. During the raid, dozens of individuals were wounded and police arrested 129 people. Three people were killed on site, including one police officer. Altogether, eight individuals, died as a result of injuries sustained during the raid.
On September 14, Directorate of Criminal Investigations Director Ndegwa Muhoro announced the government’s intention to close mosques believed by moderate Muslim leaders to be radical. On September 15, Mombasa County Police Commander Robert Kitur noted some mosques were already under surveillance. The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), senior Muslim political and religious leaders, and human rights advocates condemned the statements and accused the government of targeting the Islamic faith and curtailing freedom of worship. In response, Muhoro amended his statement, stating the government would close some madrassahs rather than mosques. He noted a madrassah in Mandera had been closed, and that the police would target individuals suspected of radicalizing Muslim youth. On September 26, the government closed a madrassah in Machakos on suspicion of radicalism.
Between November 17 and November 20, the government raided four mosques in Mombasa County, closing them after stating they had found multiple grenades, homemade bombs, and other weapons. At least one person was killed and over 360 people arrested during the raids. The majority of those arrested were released without charge within the 24-hour period specified by law. Immediately following the mosque closures, at least three people died and at least five were injured during rioting. Youth attempted to force access to one of the closed mosques in Mombasa, but were eventually repulsed. SUPKEM, Haki Africa, and a number of Mombasa political leaders condemned the raids, stating the government lacked the legal authority to close places of worship, and calling for the reopening of the mosques. On November 23, President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto issued statements defending the mosque closures, noting the government belief that the mosques were used to recruit extremists. On November 28, media reported the four mosques reopened following talks between the government, county officials, and Muslim leaders, at which Muslim leaders were asked to appoint a permanent sheikh and a committee of elders for each mosque.
Muslim leaders complained Muslim citizens often faced special difficulties acquiring national identification from the National Registration Bureau. Government policies require all citizens 18 years or older to register and obtain national identification from the National Registration Bureau. Identification cards are a prerequisite for voting and access to certain government and financial services. Failure to register is a crime. Muslim communities, including ethnic Kenyan and Somali communities, coastal Muslim communities, the Nubian community in Nairobi, and the Galjeel community around the Tana River, were often subject to additional requirements in order to register, including presentation of birth certificates and citizenship documents of their fathers and grandfathers, and were required to make special appearances at specified police stations. The government stated the additional scrutiny was necessary to deter illegal immigration and fight terrorism rather than intended to discriminate against certain ethnic or religious groups.
Government schools sometimes prevented girls from attending classes if they wore headscarves or other religious dress. School authorities who ordered female students to remove their headscarves while in school stated such garments violated school uniform policies. Muslim students said in the press that such actions forced Muslim students out of government education. A 2012 Nairobi court ruling upholding a high school’s ban of headscarves remained in effect, but many public high schools continued to permit students to wear them. Prohibitions on religious headwear at some schools affected members of the Akorino group, which combined Christian and African styles of worship and required women to cover their heads.
The Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology routinely approved regional radio and television broadcast licenses for Christian and Muslim groups.