The constitution and other laws and policies prohibit religious discrimination and protect religious freedom, including the freedom to practice any religion or belief through worship, teaching, or observance and to debate religious questions. The constitution 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, continued to be the target of government-directed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The government denied directing such actions. The Registrar of Societies did not register any new religious organizations pending completion of revised Religious Societies Rules, which had not been finalized at year’s end. According to the Alliance of Registered Churches & Ministries Founders, more than 4,400 religious group applications were pending as of the start of the year. The High Court in Nairobi overturned a decision to suspend the registration of the Atheists in Kenya Society (AIK), following 2017 court hearings regarding the attorney general’s suspension of the group’s registration. A 2016 appeal by the Methodist Church opposing the wearing of hijabs as part of school uniforms remained pending as of the end of the year. In May filings to the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Teachers Service Commission continued to support the right to wear a hijab in school.
The Somalia-based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (al-Shabaab) again carried out attacks in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu Counties and said the group had targeted non-Muslims because of their faith. In September al-Shabaab reportedly stopped a bus in Lamu County and killed two Christian travelers. In October a group of residents in Bungale, Magarini Sub County, burned and demolished a Good News International Ministries church. The government reported that local residents took action following claims the pastor was indoctrinating local residents with false Christian teachings promoting extremism among followers. A police investigation continued at year’s end. In June the Kenya National Union of Teachers presented a report to the Senate Education Committee detailing religious and gender discrimination against nonlocal teachers in Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa Counties. Muslim minority groups, particularly those of Somali descent, reported continued harassment by non-Muslims. There were again reports of religiously motivated threats of societal violence and intolerance, such as members of Muslim communities threatening individuals who converted from Islam to Christianity. According to religious leaders, some Muslim youths responded to alleged abuses by non-Muslim members of the police who came from other regions by vandalizing properties of local Christians.
U.S. embassy officials emphasized the importance of respecting religious freedom in meetings with government officials, especially underscoring the role of interfaith dialogue in stemming religious intolerance and countering violent extremism. Embassy representatives regularly discussed issues of religious freedom, including the importance of tolerance and inclusion, with local and national civic and religious leaders. The embassy urged religious leaders to engage in interfaith efforts to promote religious freedom and respect religious diversity. The embassy supported interfaith and civic efforts to defuse political and ethnic tensions.