Kenya Religion

The majority of Kenyans are Christians. Traditional beliefs also play an important role, even among parts of the Christian population. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the constitution and the tolerance between different faiths is quite high.

Of the Christians, just over half are Protestants, most of whom belong to the Anglican Church. Just under a third are Catholics. There are also a number of native churches.

The more than a tenth of Kenyans who are Muslims live mainly in the coastal areas and on the border with Somalia. Kenyan people of Indian origin are mostly Hindus, who have preserved some traditions that have disappeared in India.

Some discrimination against Muslims was reported after terrorist acts in Kenya in 1998 and 2002 (see Modern History), and the attacks in the United States in 2001. Militant Islamist groups have traditionally not held a strong position among Kenyan Muslims. In the unrest that shook the country after the 2007 elections, religion was not a factor. But in the fall of 2011, Kenya joined forces in Somalia to support the government side there (see Foreign Policy and Defense). Since then, the militant Somali Islamist movement al-Shabaab has carried out several terrorist attacks in Kenya (see Current Policy), which has led to increased tensions between Muslims and Christians. Thousands of Kenyans are also believed to have joined al-Shabaab.

However, many leading politicians and religious representatives work for continued tolerance. Coastal Christians and Muslims have been collaborating with the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics (CICC) since the early 1990s to resolve conflicts.

Plans for all religious communities to register arose in early 2016 protests from mainly Protestant Free Churches. According to the proposal, priests, pastors, imams and other religious leaders must get clear from the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission to work. They must also be theologically trained at a reputable institution. For foreign pastors, work permits and a letter of recommendation from the government of their home country are required.

Kenya Population Pyramid 2020

Population structure

Most of the Kenyan population is made up of black Africans. They are divided into around 40 ethnic groups that differ greatly from one another in terms of language and culture. Well over half belong to the Bantu peoples, such as Kikuyu, Kukya, Kamba and Kisii. There are also Nilotic and Hamitonilotic groups. Before Kenya’s independence in 1963, there was a strong white settlers in the climatically favorable highlands.

Population distribution

Most densely populated are the areas of high precipitation in the central and western highlands and the southern coastal area. About 10% of the population live nomadically in the savannahs. More and more Kenyans are leaving the rural areas to find work in the cities. One in four Kenyans lives in the city. The slum areas in the big cities are growing rapidly. The illiteracy rate is around 20%. The largest cities are Nairobi, a city of millions, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuri.


The majority of the population in Kenya belongs to Christian religions. Almost 20% are followers of natural religions.

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Kenya, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.

The purpose of the bill was, according to the British media company BBC, to limit the space for self-proclaimed Christian prophets and healers, whose influence grew in recent years, as well as Muslim leaders with extreme ideas. The protests led the government to change and withdraw its proposal in early 2016.



New controversial fuel tax introduced

September 24th

A new fuel tax has sparked strong protests in Kenya, and when it is now approved by President Kenyatta, the tax rate is only half as large as planned, 8 percent instead of 16 percent. The measure is aimed at reducing the deficit in the state budget in accordance with IMF guidelines. In August, the National Assembly voted to postpone the new tax for two years, but approved the lower tax rate in September during a fierce debate. Many Kenyans are upset about having to pay more in taxes at the same time as they think the government is wasting money and large sums are disappearing as a result of corruption.


HD judge in the right of corruption offense

August 28th

Philomena Mwilu, deputy chief judge of the Supreme Court, is arrested on charges of corruption. She is accused, among other things, of having used her office for personal gain, tax breaks and for having received gifts under questionable circumstances. Mwilu was one of the seven HD judges who annulled the first round of the presidential election in August 2017. She is released on bail. Later, the court will hold a hearing until October 9, while a higher court will decide whether the prosecution is compatible with the Kenyan constitution.


At least eight police officers have been killed in assaults

June 18

At least eight policemen are killed when the vehicle they drive in runs on a homemade land mine in Wajir in the northeastern part of the country. Somali al-Shabaab is suspected of the act . Earlier in June, five Kenyan policemen were killed in a similar attack in the same area.


Court stops parts of controversial cyber law

30 May

Organizations for journalists and bloggers manage to block, at least temporarily, parts of a new controversial cyber security law. This applies to the part that deals with the dissemination of fake news. The High Court judge listed some 20 parts of the law that could pose a threat to freedom of expression. A definite decision on this will come on July 18.

New corruption scandal in the National Youth Service

May 28

54 people, civil servants and businessmen, are accused of corruption within the National Youth Service (National Youth Service, NYA). It is very much about goods and services paid to powerful politicians’ relatives and friends, worth between $ 80 and $ 100 million (different sources indicate different numbers). Among other things, NYS should have bought beef for $ 10 million, which would correspond to a daily consumption of 66 kilos of meat per recruit. Among some 20 arrested are the head of NYS, Richard Ndubai, and Lilian Omollo at the Ministry of Youth. NYS is a semi-military educational institute created by Kenyatta to combat youth unemployment. Prosecutor Noordin Haji says he will also investigate the banks’ role in the corruption scandal. NYS was involved in a similar scandal in 2015, but recently about 20 of those charged in it were released by court. In 2016, the head of the country’s anti-corruption organization said that one-third of the state budget goes to corruption. However, the task was disputed by the Kenyan Ministry of Finance.

New cyber legislation “threat to press freedom”

May 16

President Uhuru Kenyatta signs a new and controversial cyber legislation that prohibits, among other things, fake news, online bullying, hacking, cyber espionage and the spread of child pornography online. However, critics warn that parts of the law can be used to limit press freedom. Substantial fines may be imposed on those who disseminate “false, misleading and devised information”.

48 dead when dust breaks

May 11

48 people are killed when heavy rainfall causes a dam to burst in the city of Solai, some 20 miles northwest of Nairobi. The so-called Patel Dam is privately owned and is used for irrigation and fish farming. According to the authorities, it has been built without a permit, something the owner denies. Concerns are high that the death toll will rise further as the water masses, around 70 million liters, have washed away everything that came in its way, homes, school buildings, electricity lines and more.

Nine Kenyan soldiers are killed by road bombs in Somalia

May 7

Nine Kenyan soldiers are killed in southern Somalia while operating on a road bomb. The Somali terror organization al-Shabaab is taking on the deed.

Kenyatta asks for forgiveness in speaking to the nation

May 2

President Uhuru Kenyatta is speaking to the nation asking for forgiveness for things he has said over the past year that have “damaged” Kenyans or cohesion in the country. He also asks the Kenyans to help him repair the relations that were broken in 2017. The speech faces mixed reactions in social media, raising several voices for the president to condemn the police brutality targeted at the opposition and to ensure that those affected receive damages.

At least 120 dead in severe floods

May 1

Skyfall has led to flooding in many parts of Kenya, both in rural and urban areas, after several months of severe drought. Since March, at least 120 people have been reported killed in connection with floods, and bridges, houses and livestock have been washed away by the water masses. 8,500 hectares of agricultural land is submerged. The power company KenGen is accused of exacerbating the situation by discharging water from its dams.


Three election commissioners resign

April 16

Three of the electoral commission members are leaving, Nkatha Maina, Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurga . They criticize the election commission’s leadership, and talk about arbitrary decisions, leaked documents and the fact that people acted on their own. In March, the chief executive was ordered to take three months off during the election commission’s work.


Interior Minister Matiangi is fined for court-martial

March 29th

A court fined Interior Minister Fred Matiangi, Chief of Police Joseph Boinnet and a high ranking official with the migration authority for failing to comply with its order to hand opposition politician Miguna Miguna to court. The three men are now required to pay the equivalent of $ 2,000 in fines. Miguna was deported to Canada in February, but a court later gave him clearance to return. When he returned to Kenya, he refused to apply for a visa on his Canadian passport, and was expelled again, this time to Dubai. Miguna has both Canadian and Kenyan citizenship. Miguna claimed from Dubai that he had been kept locked in a toilet at the Nairobi airport for two days. Several journalists were injured when police intervened to prevent them from monitoring what happened at the airport.

“The government interferes in too much”. Eight chroniclers resign

March 27th

Eight leading chroniclers resign from Kenya’s largest media group Nation Media Group (NMG). As a reason, they state that their editorial freedom has been cut increasingly because the company’s management is too close to the government. The background is, among other things, the dismissal of the editor Denis Galava since he wrote a chronicle that was critical of President Kenyatta’s leadership, as well as the decision not to renew the satire signing Gado’s contract.

Free Trade Agreement in Africa

21 March

Kenya is one of 44 countries to sign a Free Trade Agreement at the African Union Summit in Rwanda. The agreement must be ratified at the national level before the AFCFTA free trade area can become a reality, but it is seen as a historically important step towards increased trade exchange within Africa.

Nasa demands investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s role in the Kenyan elections

March 20

The opposition alliance Nasa requires a thorough investigation into the role of the criticized consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in the Kenyan election movement in 2017. The company is already in blustery weather because of the methods it used to obtain personal data via Facebook before the US election 2016. Managers of the company have been filmed boasting about the influence it had in Kenya. However, this is downplayed by the Kenyan government, which says it has not worked with Cambridge Analytica but with its parent company SCL.

Kenyatta and Odinga promise reconciliation programs

the 13th of March

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga meet for the first time since the election and appear after it together and promise to do their best to make the country reconciled. They promise a program on how to do this, among other things, create a joint agency with staff from both sides who would deal with problems with the electoral commission, corruption issues and ethnic tensions. But it is not clear what the collaboration will look like in practice. It is also noted that few members of Odinga’s Nasa alliance are present, and reports come that the leaders of the three parties that make up the body of Nasa are holding crisis meetings.


HD judges criticize the government

February 7

Supreme Court President David Maraga criticizes the government since it has chosen to ignore several of the court’s rulings (he does not, however, state which cases it is about). Maraga says it thus violated Kenya’s constitution and expresses concern about legal security in the country.

Opposition politicians are expelled to Canada

February 7

Opposition politician and lawyer Miguna Miguna is expelled from Kenya. This has happened since he participated in the symbolic ceremony in which Odinga was sworn in as “the people’s president” (see January 2018). Miguna is put on an airplane to Canada and the Kenyan authorities state that he had lost his citizenship in Kenya a year earlier. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court has decided that Miguna should be released free of bail. Earlier, another opposition politician has been arrested, George Aladwa, and lawyer TJ Kajwang. The authorities have also revoked the passports of 14 opposition politicians who are thus unable to leave the country.

Court cancels broadcast stations’ broadcasting ban

February 1st

The High Court, the High Court, gives a clear sign to the private television stations Citizen, NTV and KTN, to resume their broadcasts. They were stopped at the end of January when they intended to broadcast directly from Raila Odinga’s “presidential installation” (see January 2018).


Odinga swears himself in as “president of the people”

30th of January

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is holding an “installation ceremony” in Nairobi where he swears to about 15,000 supporters an oath to become “the people’s president” and promises to safeguard the nation’s interests. The authorities have closed down all TV and radio channels so that no one can broadcast directly from the ceremony (three of the largest broadcasters, Citizen TV and Radio, KTN News and NTV are prohibited from broadcasting as long as an investigation is in progress, since they are broadcast The state television channel KBC is not included in the ban). The police do not intervene, but the government later makes a statement calling them “People’s Resistance Movement”, a loosely cohesive group around Odinga and other opposition politicians, for criminals. The State Prosecutor has previously said that Odinga can be convicted high treason if he were to perform the ceremony. It is noted that few representatives of the opposition alliance Nasa are participating in the ceremony.

Political unrest beats growth

January 23

The Kenyan government cuts its forecast for economic growth for 2017 to 4.8 percent. Reasons include poor weather conditions and the lengthy electoral process. At the same time, the government predicts that growth will pick up again in the first half of 2018, partly because of increased tourism to the country.

EU observers criticize shortcomings in the elections

January 10

EU election observers would have presented their final report to the Government of Kenya and other organizations this week, but the presentation will not be released. It depends, according to Marietje Schaake, Head of the Observatory Group, on lack of interest from Kenya’s government and parliament. The EU and the Kenyan government have agreed that the report should be completed no later than three months after the election. The report states that the re-election in October was handled better than the August election, but that lack of confidence in the Election Commission affects the credibility of the electoral process and thus contributes to undermining the democratic system in the country. Concern is also expressed about the threats and harassment of both sides towards the Election Commission, the courts, etc. The report recommends that Kenya implement an electoral reform and strengthen the electoral commission ahead of the next elections in 2022. In that election, Kenyatta must not stand for re-election.

Islamists kill five police officers

January 3rd

Five policemen are killed in an attack in northeastern Kenya. The Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab takes on the deed. According to the Reuters news agency, tens of people from the security forces have been killed in recent months.

Kenya Religion