By Idy Pembere
In the recent past, the country has witnessed a sporadic proliferation of organised criminal grouping that have gained traction within a relatively short time. What is even worrying is the timing, since the populace is engulfed in an election mood that is just a stone throw away. And horrendous memories of the 2008 post-election violence should be a constant reminder of fluidity of an election.
Organised criminal groups though is a phenomena that can be found in almost every country; from the Yakuza in Japan, to the Triads in Hong Kong, FARC in Columbia, to the numerous youth gangs of large urban agglomeration everywhere, including Kenya. Perhaps it is only The Vatican that is spared from this societal malaise. In as much as these groups cannot be eliminated, concerted efforts should be made to curtail their spread and operations.
Of interest though is that we have an Act of Parliament that criminalises these groups, besides providing a raft of punitive measures.
Prevention of Organised Crime Act 2010 defines organised criminal group as a “structured group of three or more persons existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes in order to obtain material or financial gain.”
This Act is meant to strengthen efforts by law enforcers to effectively weed out these groups but unfortunately, much of the provisions are merely gathering dust on the shelves of vigilant house with little interest to enforce it. Never mind that these gangs hold their meetings in full public glare with some administering oaths with open defiance.
In this regard, there is need for concerted efforts by government to deal lawfully with the menace posed by outlaws like Mombasa Republican Council, Mungiki, Sungu Sungu and the new sect reportedly ganging up in North Eastern Province.
As if to rub salt in a bleeding wound, politicians are competing for prime time attention in appeasing these groupings in disregard of Section 3(b) of the Act, which criminalises any involvement with them, and a hefty penalty of 5 million or a 15-year jail term, or both.
Politicians have politicised the fight against organised criminal groups with some anticipating to gain political mileage, thereby handicapping any efforts by various security agencies tasked with protecting Kenyans. Most of these politicians believe they can use these groups to capture power and once in office they abandon or eliminate them.
Unfortunately, this strategy can come back to hound them like a boomerang. They only need to borrow lessons from a host of countries where abandoned criminal groups usually paralyse government operations, sabotage elected leaders whom they had hitherto supported and in some extremities, they go for the jugular; power.
Furthermore, the country is endowed with a diversity of resources, which collectively belongs to the people of Kenya. Therefore abetting the prevalence of criminal gangs bend on Balkanising sections of the country should be condemned.