The constitution and other laws and policies prohibit religious discrimination and protect religious freedom, including the freedom to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching, or observance and debate on religious questions. The constitution also provides for special qadi courts to adjudicate certain types of civil cases based on Islamic law. Human rights and Muslim religious organizations stated that certain Muslim communities, especially ethnic Somalis, were the target of government-directed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The government denied directing such actions and government institutions investigated specific claims, which were addressed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in a report leaked to the public in September. The report expressed concern that the government’s ongoing crackdown on terrorism was disproportionately targeting ethnic Somalis and Muslims in the coastal region. Kenyans of Somali heritage and other Muslim communities reported difficulties in obtaining government-mandated identification documents. The government in April moved to cancel the licenses of two human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which had said the government was engaged in extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations targeting Muslim communities. The NGOs Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and Haki Africa sued to challenge the government’s action; a high court on November 12 ordered the government to lift the ban freezing their bank accounts.
The Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab carried out attacks in Garissa and Mandera counties and said it had targeted non-Muslims because of their faith. On April 2, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a university in Garissa that resulted in at least 147 deaths, with witnesses reporting the terrorists targeted non-Muslims. In Mandera County, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killings of 14 people in a July attack on a guesthouse, stating it had targeted Christian quarry workers. Al-Shabaab terrorists made several incursions between May and November into northeastern and coastal towns in which they forcefully herded residents into mosques to preach to and threaten them with violence if they cooperated with the government.
An international Christian news website reported that an imam who had converted to Christianity was beaten by his community, and his house was burned. Tensions between Christians and Muslims rose after the April 2 attack on Garissa University College. Media widely reported that some churches hired armed guards to protect Easter services out of fear that extremists were targeting Christians. Muslims also said they faced increasing hostility after the attacks from the Christian majority.
The U.S. embassy regularly discussed issues of religious freedom, including the importance of tolerance and inclusion, with government officials and local and national religious leaders. The embassy urged religious leaders to engage in interfaith efforts to promote a continued commitment to religious freedom and religious diversity, noting the strong influence of their leadership with regard to their respective congregations. The embassy supported interfaith efforts to defuse political and ethnic tensions and encouraged religious leaders to work together across sectarian lines to advance tolerance and peaceful coexistence, especially following the terrorist attacks in Mandera and Garissa.