Kenya militias turn into criminal gangs, pose threat

Saturday February 27 2010

By FRED MUKINDA

Militias which perpetrated some of the worst violence in the last General Election have transformed into criminal gangs and pose a grave threat to the nation’s security.

Most of them are taking advantage of the community policing project to claim legitimacy as community-based vigilante groups, according to the latest monitoring report commissioned by the Kofi Annan-led Panel of Eminent African Personalities that negotiated the end to the post-election violence. Some 1,300 people were killed and another 650,000 displaced in the violence.

A move by the government to revamp the community policing project is reported to be yielding negative results. The project was revamped in 2005 and its budgetary allocation increased 20-fold to Sh84 million for the 2009/2010 financial year.

“Community policing through vigilantes is turning into a source of insecurity for communities. Illegal groups as well as vigilantes demand payment for security in poor neighbourhoods,” reads part of the report.

The report was compiled by consultancy firm South Consulting which did research in Nairobi, Central and Nyanza provinces towards the end of last year.

A previous report commissioned by the Panel of Eminent Persons and done by the same firm between January 2008 and February 2009 warned that the security groups, commonly known as vigilantes, had been infiltrated by sacked police officers and transformed into criminal gangs.

Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the matter was taken seriously. He said that the emergence of criminal gangs was one of the reasons leading to the formation of a Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) within the police force. “We’ve penetrated almost all of them and the plan is to arrest and charge individual members with the crimes they committed,” said Mr Kiraithe.

The report identified 32 such groups, 20 of them in Nairobi. These exclude those well known like the Mungiki, Taliban, Sungu Sungu and Chinkororo.

“Security has been commoditised. Individuals, households and businesses pay for personal safety and protection of property. Vigilantes, organised as security units, attack or destroy the property of individuals or households that are unwilling to pay,” reads part of the report.

The report identified new gangs preying on the transport sector in Kibera as Bumps Ahead, Karanja Youth and Kaberenge. The audit report also identifies more gangs in the same area including Yes We Can, 14 Gendarmerie, 12 Flamingos, 12 Disciples, Bunkers, Kosovo, Tuff Gong, Dego Youths, 40 Ndugus, ODM Youths, Darajani, Jipange and Super 14.

In Nairobi North, the report identified Thaai and Wailer groups. The Hague, Kenda Kenda, Bantu and Ngoroko gangs were identified in Central. In Nyanza, there are Nyalenda Base, Chief Squad, Nyamasira Massive, Baghdad for Peace.