Country Report on Terrorism 2013 - Chapter 2 - Kenya

Overview: Kenya is a member of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism, and is a strong ally of the United States in the fight against al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida (AQ). The September 2013 al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall focused the world’s attention on Kenya and Kenyan counterterrorism efforts, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Kenyan security forces’ response. The attack appeared to strengthen Kenyan resolve to fight al-Shabaab, including increased operations by Kenya Defense Forces units under the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). In October, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his intention to appoint a commission of inquiry into Westgate “lapses and how we can avoid them in the future,” but no such report had been released publicly by year’s end.

Kenya’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and other partner nations remained strong: the Kenyan government welcomed substantial U.S. assistance in the post-Westgate investigation and requested additional support on border security and other issues following Westgate.

2013 Terrorist Incidents: Official figures on the Westgate attack listed 65 civilians, six soldiers and police officers, and four terrorists among the dead. Hundreds more were injured and 27 people were listed as missing by the Kenyan Red Cross. Most Westgate victims were citizens of Kenya, along with multiple victims from the UK, India, Canada and France; and single victims from Australia, China, Ghana, the Netherlands, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago. Al-Shabaab publicly claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, as well as for three attacks in Garissa in May and August, and an attack in Wajir in September. Ten individuals died in these other attacks (including several police officers and a Red Cross official), dozens more were injured, and two police officers were abducted.

Other unclaimed attacks by individuals or groups appearing to be sympathetic to al-Shabaab or AQ included numerous shootings, grenade, and improvised explosive device attacks against security forces, aid workers, civilians, and refugees in hotels, restaurants, mosques, and vehicles. Hardest hit areas were the northeast border counties of Garissa (including the Dadaab refugee camps), Mandera, and Wajir, but attacks also took place in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, and Lamu counties.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kenya’s 2012 Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2011 Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, and 2010 Prevention of Organized Crime Act together provided a strong legal framework under which to prosecute acts of terrorism. Kenya’s National Assembly passed no new general legislation on terrorism in 2013, but new amendments to the landmark 2012 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) were passed in 2013 that strengthened the criminalization of financing acts of terrorism.

The Kenyan judiciary demonstrated increasing independence and competence, but remained hampered by a lack of key procedural tools to allow effective use of plea agreements, cooperation agreements, electronic evidence and other undercover investigative tools. Nevertheless, courts began trying cases under the 2012 PTA for the first time in late 2013. The first prosecutions under the 2012 PTA were four cases against alleged Westgate accomplices, and they remained ongoing at year’s end. Five other alleged co-conspirators were charged but remained at-large.

Kenyan law enforcement was hampered by limited resources, insufficient training, and endemic corruption. Counterterrorism functions were divided between the three branches of the newly-restructured National Police Service: the Kenya Police (including the investigative Antiterrorism Police Unit and the paramilitary General Services Unit), the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and the Administration Police, and non-police agencies such as the National Intelligence Service and elements of the Kenya Defense Forces. Operational effectiveness was sometimes impeded by poor coordination among and within police, intelligence, and military forces; as well as unclear command, control, and overt political interference. Kenyan authorities identified crisis response and border security as key areas for improvement, and discussed possible additional assistance with partner nations including the United States.

Terrorist screening watchlists, biographic and biometric screening, and other measures were in place at major Kenyan ports of entry. Kenya continued its partnership with the United States to strengthen Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System border controls at major ports of entry, including expanded automatic data transmission capability at frequently traveled sites.

In 2013, Kenya participated in a range of U.S. government-sponsored programs. The U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program focused on building law enforcement capacities in the areas of border security, investigations, and crisis response, and on the institutionalization of counterterrorism prevention and response capabilities. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement assistance was largely dedicated to building the capacity of Kenya’s new Independent Police Accountability Office. DHS Customs and Border Patrol assistance provided multinational training including Kenya for rural border patrol units such as those in the Kenya Police Service and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Despite the challenges, Kenyan police, intelligence, and military agencies regularly detected and disrupted terrorist threats large and small. While the Westgate attack showed glaring gaps in Kenyan command and control and the unsuitability of conventional military forces to respond to a civilian incident such as Westgate, the initial response by the Crisis Response Team of the elite General Service Unit Recce Company was more competent.

Kenyan authorities were generally responsive to requests for assistance from the United States, and cooperated with U.S. counterparts on investigations and in securing the safety of U.S. citizens and interests. Even prior to the passage of the 2012 law, Kenyan authorities began prosecutions in high profile cases of plots targeting Western interests, convicting and sentencing to life in prison Iranians Ahmad Abolfathi and Sayed Mansouri on explosives charges in May, and continuing the ongoing trial of British citizen Jermaine Grant on charges of plotting to kill Western tourists on behalf of AQ.

Although allegations of police abuses – including extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detentions – persist, progress continued on police reforms, including the public vetting of police commanders, which began in late 2013 in an effort to combat endemic police corruption and strengthen weak civilian oversight to increase the effectiveness of Kenyan security sector institutions. Mismanagement, corruption, and lack of capacity on border controls and systems for national identification for citizens, residents, and refugees hampered the ability of law enforcement to identify and detain potential terrorists.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kenya is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In October, Kenya was recognized by the FATF for progress in improving its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. Key deficiencies remain, however, including: adequately criminalizing terrorist financing; ensuring a fully operational and effectively functioning financial intelligence unit; establishing and implementing an adequate legal framework for the identification and freezing of terrorist assets; and implementing an adequate and effective AML/CFT supervisory program for all financial sectors.

Also in October, the National Assembly passed the 2013 Finance Act containing amendments to the 2012 Prevention of Terrorism Act that strengthened Kenyan legal provision criminalizing the financing of terrorism. In an October 2013 public statement, the FATF praised Kenya for “steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime” but noted that “Kenya should continue to work on implementing its action plan” to address deficiencies in legislation, operational effectiveness, asset identification and freezing, and financial sector supervision. Kenya’s Financial Reporting Center continued to make progress in becoming fully operational but reported no significant prosecutions or seizures and remained hampered by a lack of essential resources including an electronic reporting system for suspicious transactions.

While the Financial Reporting Center made a good start at addressing the formal financial system and expanded the number of reporting entities that it will serve, those efforts did not yet include informal money/value transfer services and exchange houses. The Central Bank of Kenya took steps to encourage more people to use the formal financial sector in order to increase financial integrity by ensuring regulatory oversight. The Financial Reporting Center monitored mobile money transactions to a degree, especially the popular Safaricom Mpesa service, but did not engage with NGOs to file suspicious transaction reports.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Kenya is a member of the AU, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the Community of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the East African Community. Kenyan law enforcement agencies worked with these organizations and the broader international community, including the United States, to increase their counterterrorism capacity and secure land, sea, and air borders. Kenya also cooperated with the United States and other nations to secure especially dangerous pathogens and enhance the Kenyan government’s capability to prevent the sale, theft, diversion, or accidental release of chemical, biological, or radiological weapons-related materials, technology, and expertise.

Kenya’s primary contribution to supporting counterterrorism capacity building in other nations was its significant troop contribution to AMISOM. In addition, Kenya hosted numerous trainings involving law enforcement professionals from neighboring nations to build counterterrorism capacities and increase regional cooperation.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Some Kenyan civil society organizations actively worked to address the drivers of radicalization and violent extremism in Kenya, often with assistance from the United States and other international partners; but the Government of Kenya was not engaged in significant efforts in such areas.