Security agencies are alarmed by the rise of teenage criminal gangs in Nairobi that operate with impunity with some members bragging about their exploits on social media.
They are young — in their late teens to early 20s — flamboyant with heavy jewellery and sagging jeans and armed with pistols or knives.
They are ready to kill just to steal a phone or money and do not hesitate to shoot their victims at the slightest provocation.
They are, according to Nairobi County Deputy Police Commander Moses Ombati, responsible for most carjackings and home raids in the country’s largest city. They are based mainly at Kayole, Buru Buru and Githurai.
“Most of these boys dropped out of school and joined estate gangs” Mr Ombati said.
Since January, he added, police have gunned down more than 60 armed suspects during robbery and carjacking incidents. More than half were under 25.
SPATE OF CRIME
On August 15, a resident of South C was carjacked by four armed men as he was waiting for the gate to his friend’s house to be opened.
The gangsters drove away with the vehicle after abandoning him on Mombasa Road.
Two days later, police on patrol spotted the vehicle — whose number plate had been circulated — at the Buru Buru shopping centre at 11.30 p.m. with three men inside.
A few minutes past midnight, the three alighted and one entered an ATM booth. When they spotted the police officers, two of the young men escaped; the third was shot dead as he tried to drive off.
The dead suspect was identified as 22-year-old Thomas Warui Njoka, infamously known as Tomaso Gagula. He had been a matatu tout for some time, according to people who knew him.
In an unusual turn of events, his tragic circumstances have played out on Facebook.
It emerged that on August 13, two days before he was shot, Tomaso had changed his profile picture. He placed a picture of one Lenny Keizer M-Pole and wrote on his update that he missed him so much.
Lenny, who was 21, was shot dead on August 14, 2013.
The two were suspected of being members of a gang notorious for carjacking and burglary.
According to officers attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the gangsters wear multiple chains around their necks, two rings on four fingers and a gold tooth.
They have a specific tattoo on the back of their ears they use for identification.
They also wear tight trousers police say are used to keep their firearms from dropping.
Police sources say they have gunned down a number of them, among them those who were known by the nicknames ‘Skyder’— suspected to have been the gang leader, Marcus Garvey, Silver, and Budaa.
Marcos and Silver were shot dead on Thika Road on July 29, last year.
The two were profiled as criminals who targeted wealthy victims. They were also known to be very intimidating.
GANG WITH A FACEBOOK PAGE
Another gang is suspected to be operating in Githurai 44 and is made up of boys and girls who recently left school.
Communication between the National Intelligence Service officers and the police, which the Sunday Nation has seen, indicates that the gang of 40 youngsters has a leader who is assisted by a young woman.
The gang even has a Facebook page, which the officers kept referring to as they alerted each other of the identities and profiles of the suspects.
“We have information about several organised gangs of young men in the city, but we have to carefully study them and conduct our investigations,” Mr Ombati says.
He says police only pursue those they have established to be involved in crime.
“We have to be careful so that those who are innocent are not victimised. Some of the boys get into these organised gangs without really knowing what their members do. They are influenced by the flashy lifestyles,” Mr Ombati says.
Last Wednesday, Mr Ombati said a boy whose picture had been posted on one of the blogs and was said to belong to one of the suspect groups, “Mauki Family”, went to the Nairobi Police Headquarters on Valley Road and distanced himself from the group.
“He said that he feared police would come after him yet he had never been involved in any crime. He wanted to set the record straight,” said the police boss.
“Gaza Boys” in Kayole, which police suspect are to blame for an upsurge of crime in Eastlands, have been the focus of a police operation for the past two weeks.
Kayole DO Pius Ondachi last month profiled the boys as ruthless, terming them a gang for hire.
The youngsters, Mr Ombati says, are driven into crime by poverty and poor parenting.
“Parents no longer care to understand their children or even know how they get money. They are too busy,” he says.
ADVISED TO COOPERATE
He says most of the time the gangs carjack people a few minutes to midnight and force them to withdraw money from ATMs before returning for another withdrawal after midnight.
Mr Meshack Langat says that on January 12 attackers trailed him to his parking spot in Donholm Estate.
“I tried resisting and they hit me on the head forcing me to comply. I was forced into the back-seat and blindfolded,” says Mr Langat, who was later abandoned near Thome Estate at 5 a.m.
Police advise people to cooperate when they are attacked because the gangsters can shoot at the slightest provocation.
“If a suspicious car is following you or you see suspicious people at your gate, don’t stop. Just pass and head to the police station,” he says.