Kenya. The wave of terror attacks that took off after Kenya started fighting the armed Islamist al-Shabab movement in neighboring Somalia in 2014. However, the violence also had domestic political implications and has again increased tensions between the kikuyu people, of which President Uhuru Kenyatta belongs, and luo, from where the main opposition leader Raila Odinga comes. The tone was sometimes loud from both parties, and in June, leaflets with hate propaganda spread to Luo. It was mainly the conflict between these two groups that was the basis of the violent unrest after the 2007 elections.
According to Countryaah.com, Kenya population in 2020 is estimated at 53,771,307. Most attacks took place in the coastal province, but several attacks were also carried out in the capital Nairobi, for example against buses and bus stops. Swedish-Somali al-Shabab leader Fuad Mohamed Qalaf made a statement in May that the movement intended to move the war to Kenya and Uganda as punishment for these countries’ involvement in Somalia.
One of the bloodiest terrorist acts of the year took place in June in the town of Mpeketoni near the island of Lamu. Armed men attacked the police station and several hotels and killed about 50 people. The following day, at least 15 people were killed in a nearby village. al-Shabaab took responsibility for both deaths. Nevertheless, President Kenyatta said in a televised speech that it was not Somali Islamists but a local Kenyan group that was guilty. In his speech, Kenyatta pointed out people in the country who “spread hatred”, which many interpreted as a reference to Raila Odinga and his political movement CORD. However, the Kenyan security service was adamant that al-Shabaab was behind the death.
In July, around 30 people were killed when two villages near the coast were attacked by heavily armed men. Although al-Shabab took on the blame, the regional separatist movement Mombasa Republic Movement was pointed out by the Kenyan government, against the denial of the movement. Vice President William Ruto accused political rivals of trying to make the country impossible to govern in order to seize power. Later that month, about 50 people were shot on the outskirts of Mombasa and seven people, including two police officers, were killed in an attack on a tourist bus en route to Lamu.
In November, a bus was hijacked near the Somali border and 28 passengers, all non-Muslims, were executed. Once again, al-Shabaab took on the deed, which was said to be a revenge for a scare against four mosques near Mombasa that Kenyan security forces carried out earlier that week. Kenya responded with an air strike at the al-Shabab party in Somalia. At the beginning of December, at least 36 people were killed when al-Shabab attacked workers in a quarry in the northeastern corner of Kenya.
In addition to the Kenyan military presence in Somalia, during the year al-Shabab pointed out targeted efforts at Somalis as a reason for the many acts of violence. Police conducted repeated raids on mosques that were feared to be recruitment bases for al-Shabab. Hundreds of Somalis were prosecuted, accused of being members of the movement. In March, the government ordered all the approximately 100,000 Somali refugees living outside the huge refugee camps Dabaab and Kakuma to return there.
Following an explosive attack in the Eastleigh district on the outskirts of Nairobi (also called Little Mogadishu due to the predominantly Somali population), several thousand Somalis were arrested in a few days. During the year several hundred Somalis were sent back to their home country. The operation, which went by the name of Usalama Watch, was criticized by Amnesty International, among others. According to the organization, Somali refugees were made into scapegoats and were subjected, among other things, to violent harassment, arbitrary arrests, forced removals and illegal expulsions.
During the year, the many terrorist acts caused several countries to issue travel warnings for Kenya, and the country’s tourism industry was hit hard.
Great attention during the year also got the case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against President Uhuru Kenyatta. He is charged with involvement in attacks against supporters of political opponents following the disputed elections in 2007. In September, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, decided to postpone the trial indefinitely, citing lack of evidence. A partial explanation stated was that several witnesses withdrew their testimonies. Bensouda also accused the Kenyan government of withholding information she requested. In October, Kenyatta applied for interrogation in The Hague, the first head of state to appear before the ICC. He returned shortly thereafter in triumph to Kenya and in December, prosecutors decided to close the prosecution because they did not believe the evidence was sufficient for a convict.
At the beginning of the year, Kenyatta took measures to reduce government spending. In January, he took the initiative to clear all persons who remained on the public sector payrolls, even though they were no longer working, including the deceased and retired. Preliminary investigations had shown that very large sums were paid to this type of “ghost worker”. In March, Kenyatta’s and Vice President William Ruto’s salaries were reduced by 20% and all ministers received 10% less in salary.
In April, a new and in some respects controversial marriage law was introduced, which legalizes polygamy, among other things. Men can now marry several women without consulting the wives he already has. The new law also prohibits marriage before the age of 18. Controversial was also the new anti-terrorism legislation passed in December. To the most criticized elements was the authorities’ right to keep terror suspects imprisoned for up to one year. The opposition accused the government of wanting to create a police state and when Parliament approved a number of amendments to the new laws, fights broke out in the parliament building.
In August, President Kenyatta signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build a new large port at Lamu. The port is intended to be an East African hub to which oil pipelines from South Sudan and railway lines from Ethiopia and Uganda should go.