Republic of Kenya
Head of state and government: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta

Continued attacks in Kenya carried out by al-Shabaab, the Somali-based armed group, led Kenya to step up its counter-terrorism operations, which resulted in an increase of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. Human rights organizations reporting on violations by security agencies during these operations were increasingly harassed. Some civil society organizations were shut down or threatened with closure through judicial or administrative measures.


In the context of counter-terrorism operations and the prevailing security situation, hundreds of individuals were forcibly disappeared or extrajudicially executed. Civil society organizations, especially those documenting human rights violations in the context of security operations, were accused of not complying with tax and regulatory norms or accused of providing support to terrorists. NGOs were threatened with deregistration by the NGOs Co-ordination Board (NGO Board), which was challenged in court.

Kenya continued to ask the ICC to drop the case involving Deputy President William Ruto, arguing that the Office of the Prosecutor, through local civil society organizations, had procured some of the witnesses. In the build-up to the Assembly of State Parties, MPs affiliated with the ruling coalition ratcheted up calls for the case to be dropped. No measures were put in place to ensure justice and reparations for victims of the 2007-2008 post-electoral violence. The President announced during his State of the Nation address on 26 June that Kenya would set up a reparation fund to compensate victims, but that it would not be limited to victims of the 2007-2008 post-electoral violence.


On 2 April, gunmen attacked Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya, near the Somali border. The attackers killed 147 students and injured 79 before detonating suicide vests when cornered by security forces. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. The government made publicly available their list of the most wanted suspected members of al-Shabaab and appealed to the public to provide information leading to their arrest.

On 14 June, 11 people believed to be al-Shabaab members and two Kenyan military officers were killed in an attack on a military base in Lamu, a town near the Kenya-Somalia border. The attack occurred on the first anniversary of a similar attack in Mpeketoni town, in which suspected members of al-Shabaab killed at least 60 people.


Politicians and community leaders blamed Somali refugees for the attack on Garissa University College. They publicly claimed that the Daadab refugee camp, in Garissa, was the breeding ground for terrorism. Daadab hosts at least 600,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, most of whom are Somali.

The Deputy President called for the closure of Dadaab refugee camp within three months from April.[1] At a UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, meeting in Geneva on 4 October, Kenya's Interior Minister expressed concern "about the alleged involvement or complacency of some UNHCR personnel, who facilitate terrorist activities" in the country.

Around 350,000 Somali refugees were at risk of being forcibly returned to Somalia, which would amount to a violation of Kenya's obligations under international law and put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. There were also at least 250,000 refugees from other countries. Forcibly returning them would have put them at risk of human rights abuses, such as rape and killings. Kenya is a party to the UN Refugee Convention and the African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, both of which include the principle of non-refoulement that prohibits states from forcibly returning people to a place where they would be at real risk of human rights violations.


On 19 December 2014, the President approved the Security Laws (Amendment) Act (SLAA). Two of the sections contain provisions restricting freedom of speech and media freedom. As soon as the amendment was adopted and signed into law, a coalition including opposition parties filed a petition before the High Court challenging many provisions of the SLAA on the grounds that they were contrary to the right to freedom of expression.

On 23 February, the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court ruled on the constitutionality of the SLAA, holding that eight clauses of the law were unconstitutional. In its ruling, the High Court struck down Section 12 of the law for "violating the freedom of expression and the media guaranteed under Articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution". The section penalized media coverage "likely to cause public alarm, incitement to violence, or disturb public peace" or that "undermines investigations or security operations by the National Police Service or the Kenya Defence Forces." The maximum sentence for offenders was three years in prison, a fine of 5 million shillings (US$55,000) or both.

On 25 October, the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2014 was passed, criminalizing, among other things, any publication deemed by the Speaker of Parliament or parliamentary committee chairs to amount to false or scandalous libel of Parliament. The bill also prescribed a 500,000-shilling fine or two-year jail term, or both, for journalists found guilty of contravening the provision. Journalists reporting on issues such as bribery or corruption scandals were at risk for exercising their right to freedom of expression. On 10 November, John Ngirachu, a Daily Nation parliamentary editor, was arrested by Criminal Investigation Department officers at Parliament for allegedly breaching confidentiality over a story highlighting questionable spending within the Interior Ministry.

On 7 July, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria made a statement encouraging residents in his constituency to slash with machetes critics of the National Youth Service project in the constituency. On 8 July, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) called for the Inspector General of the Police to arrest and prosecute the legislator over incitement. Kuria was detained at Kilimani Police Station after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko ordered his prosecution for inciting his constituents. Other politicians also faced charges for incitement, including Nairobi Orange Democratic Movement chair George Aladwa, who appeared in court on 27 October. On 15 December, the DPP lodged an appeal with the High Court to have Kuria and Aladwa detained.


A week after the attack on Garissa University, 85 companies and NGOs, including Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and Haki Africa, were designated as "specified entities" by the Inspector General of the Police (IGP) in a Gazette notice, a step before being classified as a terrorist organization under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

On 20 and 21 April, the Kenya Revenue Authority raided the offices of MUHURI and Haki Africa, disabling their servers, confiscating computer hard drives and other documents to determine whether the two organizations were tax compliant. Their hard drives were returned on 23 December. The Mombasa High Court ruled on 12 June that the organizations had no links to terrorism, but fell short of giving an explicit order to unfreeze their bank accounts. The two organizations appealed the ruling and on 12 November, the High Court found that the Inspector General of the Police's action to freeze their accounts was unconstitutional and therefore null and void. The judge ordered the immediate unfreezing of the accounts.

On 15 May, a task force created in 2014 by the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning to consult stakeholders on amendments to the Public Benefit Organizations Act 2013 released its report. Among its key recommendations, the report asked to monitor donors and beneficiaries, as well as Public Benefit Organizations (PBOs), for transparency and accountability. The report also recommended that PBOs be obliged to disclose the sources of their funding and declare how they intend those funds to be utilized. Civil society organizations opposed the recommendations of the report, arguing that many of them never came up during the 2014 public hearings.

On 28 October, the NGO Board notified 957 NGOs, through its executive officer, of their requirement to submit their audited bank accounts within two weeks or be deregistered. The NGO Board accused the NGOs of misappropriation of funds, funding of terrorism, money laundering, diversion of donor money and failing to file their audited books of accounts as required by law. On 30 October, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and National Planning ordered the revocation of the decision to issue the notice of deregistration. The NGO Kenya Human Rights Commission instituted a suit against the NGO Board's illegal and irregular actions.


On 19 January, the police used tear gas against schoolchildren of Langata Primary School who were peacefully protesting against a politician's alleged move to seize their playground and turn it into a car park. Five pupils and a police officer were injured during the protest. The officer in charge of the operation was suspended.


During the night of 17 May, a bulldozer accompanied by armed police woke up residents of Jomvu in Mombasa County.[2] The bulldozer demolished shops and homes that had been marked with yellow crosses for demolition, to pave way for the expansion of the Mombasa-Mariakani Highway. The authorities had not adequately engaged residents of Jomvu in prior genuine consultations on the evictions and alternatives to them. Over 100 people were made homeless overnight. Approximately 3,000 residents of Deep Sea, an informal settlement in the capital, Nairobi, were threatened with evictions multiple times to make way for the EU-funded "Missing Link" road construction project.[3] The community had challenged the eviction in court and raised concerns around due process and adequate compensation. On 8 July, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority told residents that unless they withdrew their court action challenging the eviction, authorities would not engage with them.

On 21 August, more than 300 homes were destroyed and an estimated 500 people were forcibly evicted in a government operation in Nairobi's informal settlement of Mathare. No warnings were given and no alternative housing was provided.


On 24 April, the High Court ruled that members of an LGBTI rights organization could formally register their organization. The Court rendered its decision following a petition filed by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register under the NGO Board Act. The NGO Board had rejected the group's request to register in March 2013. The three-judge High Court ruled that the NGO Board's decision violated Article 36 of Kenya's Constitution and was contrary to the right of freedom of association.

[1] Crisis looms for Somali refugees as Kenya orders closure of Dadaab refugee camp (News story, 16 April)

[2] Kenya: Driven out for development; forced evictions in Mombasa, Kenya (AFR 32/2467/2015)

[3] Kenya: Deep Sea residents at risk of forced eviction (AFR 32/2054/2015)

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