Firm action to deal with runaway crime appeared to be finally under way, with a massive swoop in Nairobi in which 500 people were arrested.
Interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku appeared to signal a more hardline approach by warning that the government’s patience with criminals had run out.
He ordered all Somali refugees to return to camps in nothern Kenya and in Mombasa, the county security team appeared to order police to shoot the Likoni church attackers on sight.
(READ: Terror in Mombasa church)
In the Tuesday night swoop, two suspects were gunned down by police while the 500 were arrested in different parts of the city.
More than 500 additional police officers were deployed in Nairobi and Mombasa and ordered to deal ruthlessly with criminals out to cause terror and steal from residents.
And moments after they started the crackdown on city streets and estates, police shot dead the suspects in Dagoretti. The two, police said, were in a gang of five that was robbing people in Kamwene in Riruta.
“They had a toy pistol which they were threatening people with. Three of them escaped,” County deputy police commander Moses Ombati said.
Several items suspected to have been stolen from residents were recovered. In the same area, 48 suspects were arrested during the police operation, but in the entire city, more than 500, including street families and revellers were seized in what Nairobi police commander Benson Kibue termed “operation sweep Nairobi”.
Mr Kibue said armed criminals, some even wearing bullet-proof vests were in the city, moving in groups as they stole from women and mugged residents with impunity.
“We should face the criminals in a no-nonsense manner while armed to the teeth. We are not going to laugh with criminals ...,” said Mr Kibue during a briefing for officers at the Nairobi Area Traffic headquarters before deployment.
He urged them to act within the law, but the tone of his directive left no doubt that the officers should not negotiate with armed criminals.
Many people caught enjoying drinks in bars and watching English football on television were not spared. They were made to sit on the floor, before being bundled onto police vehicles.
The police also targeted muggers who pose as passengers at matatu stages. The police boss said that areas that were previously safe, such as Karen, Runda and Kileleshwa had not been spared.
The officers, drawn from the General Service Unit, Administration Police and the regular police, also sang — moments before they hit the streets — the military war song: “Soldier wake up now, get your rifle, but if I die in the battlefield, tell my mama I did my bit…”
Central OCPD Patrick Oduma said 300 officers had been deployed in the city, with the mandate to “leave the town free of criminals”.
And Mr Ombati said: “The public needs to be aware of whoever they have as a neighbours. It can really help us all in combating crime.”