A Muslim man is detained by police officers at the Masjid Mussa Mosque in Kenya's coastal town of Mombasa, February 2, 2014.
Joseph Okanga / Courtesy Reuters

As one of its first acts of the new year, Kenya’s High Court overturned eight provisions of a controversial security law designed to give the government sweeping powers to fight terrorism, particularly against the Somalia-based group al Shabaab. The decision has been hailed in Kenya as a great win for free speech and civil rights. Although the ruling was indeed a victory, it came in the middle of a troubling slide by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government into increasingly draconian behavior.

Terrorism in Kenya is a real and deadly threat. As of September 2014, al Shabaab has killed at least 400 people and injured over 1,000 in more than 100 attacks since 2011. That year, after several al Shabaab raids into Kenya’s eastern region and then a dramatic kidnapping of several Kenyan aid workers, the country launched an operation in Somalia to clear out the militants and secure its eastern border.

Since then,

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  • JOSHUA MESERVEY is Assistant Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. Follow him on Twitter @jmeservey.
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