Kenya shuts Somali-linked money transfer firms overnight, cutting off a lifeline for many

Government's decision to shut down services has elicited strong and mixed reactions online.

  1. The Kenyan government has frozen the bank accounts of 86 individuals and companies suspected of being linked to the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, after the group claimed responsibility for the killing of 147 people at a university in Garissa last week. At the same time, though, the Kenyan government ordered the closure of 13 money transfer services used primarily to send funds to Somalia.
  2. Somalis rely heavily on the informal money transfer firms, loosely known as "hawalas", to do business and send cash because the banking sector is almost non-existent in their country.
  3. The move could sever an essential lifeline for millions of people in Somalia who depend on remittances from relatives or use the services for their businesses. In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, many in the Somali-dominated neighbourhood of Eastleigh were frustrated by the decision, taking to Twitter to express anger and confusion.
  4. Families who depend on the money service appear to have received no warning of the closure and are struggling to receive and send cash.
  5. “A huge number of Somalis rely on remittances, which are estimated to be as much as US$1.2 billion every year - more than the entire humanitarian operation in the country,” Philippe Lazzarini, the UN’s top humanitarian official in Somalia, previously told IRIN.
  6. The decision does not only impact Somalis based in Kenya, but potentially those abroad.
  7. Other Kenyans support the government's decision, approving a tough measure to crack down on Al-Shabaab.
  8. Some may think this is a move to get Somalis to use Kenyan money transfer services instead.
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