Gangs take over Nairobi leaving trails of fear and death

Police crack down on suspected Mungiki adherents in Mathare in a past operation. Many residents in Nairobi estates are at the mercy of illegal gangs. [File, Standard]

Bishop Josphat Njoroge Gitau has decided to acquire a gun after he received a warning to desist from persuading youth to abandon the Gaza gang. The caution allegedly came few weeks ago from gang members who warned him of unspecified consequences if he continued interfering with their affairs.

The bishop reported the matter at the Kayole Police Station and has applied for a firearm certificate. Gaza is active in parts of Kayole and Njiru where it started two years ago.

“Some of Gaza members are not happy with the work I am doing. They have been plotting how to stop me but I will not be cowed,” says Njoroge. He heads the Jubilee Restoration Christian Church (JRCC) in Njiru.

With the support of former Mungiki leader Ndura Waruingi, the reformed criminal took the risky path of trying to convince young boys to severe links with the gang. He reckons more than 50 youths have heeded to his call with an assortment of guns being surrendered.

Njoroge’s boldness is a stark contrast of the fear exhibited in most city residents who live in silence amidst other gangs like Mungiki, Superpower, Siafu, 42 Brothers, Nyuki, Apana Tambua, Portmore, Yausa, Superpower Boys, Taliban, Sitaki Kujua, Kapedo, Mgenge, Taka Taka, Kamjeshi, Kamkunji Pressure Group, Baghdad, Usiku Sacco, Mugumoini Youth Chapter and Mzuka.

The fear was evident on two elders in Dandora estate following last month’s killing of Alex Ngugi, a crime suspect. The elders who are members of the local Nyumba Kumi committee claimed their work is difficult due to threats posed by Mungiki.

They are forced to operate in secrecy. “We fear openly talking to strangers or visitors like you because as soon as we part ways, emissaries will be sent demanding to know the nature of our discussions,” said one of the elders, a pastor.

It is believed Ngugi was a gang member. He was shot dead by police after he at gunpoint, violently robbed Casmil Okello of a laptop, mobile phone and Sh2,000 on February 20.

A day later, the body of his father, David Chege, was found abandoned in a car in Gitaru alongside those of Martin Musyoka, Shadrack Njuguna and Joseph Mwangi.

Criminal gangs usually instill fear in people who hardly report to police after losing trust in the law enforcers.

Chairman of the National Committee on Citizen Participation in Security, Joseph Kaguthi, concurred with wananchi’s predicament in the face of the gangs.

Kaguthi blamed police for not taking their job seriously, accusing some of them of colluding with members of criminal gangs, and in the process, jeopardizing any gains made by Nyumba Kumi committes.

“Police are betraying Nyumba Kumi members. That is what they have been telling us. They have little trust for the police who are part of these gangs. Quite discouraging that some police officers leak out confidential information in exchange of bribes,” said Kaguthi.

According to Kenya Alliance Resident Association (KARA) chief executive officer, Henry Ochieng’, some of the gangs have networks right inside police stations.

“These criminal gangs are found across various corners of Nairobi where they operate in discreet with no known structures. Residents fear reporting about them. It is time all stakeholders had an honest discussion on how to deal with the gangs. Issuing amnesty and threats does not address the situation,” observed Ochieng’.

The most notorious are Mungiki, Siafu, Gaza and Superpower, according to police officers familiar with the gangs. Ndura however claims Mungiki is dead in the city.

“There is no Mungiki in Nairobi, what is happening is that remnants regrouped into different criminal gangs that pursue certain interests in their respective strongholds,” said Ndura who abandoned the sect.

Mungiki is active in Kasarani, Mwiki, Lunga Lunga, Laini-Saba, Mukuru, Dandora and Maili-Saba. Siafu calls the shots in parts of Kibra, Dandora and Lang’ata while Superpower reigns in Eastleigh with its offshoot, Superpower Boys, wreaking havoc in Komarock, Saika and Mowlem.

Some of the officers and administrators flatly denied the gangs exist. “Superpower died a long time ago as far as I am concerned,” retorted a chief in Eastleigh while Kayole OCPD Joseph Gichangi said Gaza was a creation of the media and the imagination of residents.

The gang is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons. It started in Kayole and Njiru before spreading to Kawangware, Huruma and Kariobangi. Its followers are mostly teenagers, some still in school.

“I have been here trying to understand all this mystery surrounding Gaza. To the best of my knowledge and what I have gathered, Gaza does not exist. Criminals disguised as Gaza members are the ones giving us trouble,” said Gichangi.

Ndura said the gangs are a ticking time bomb and urged for concerted efforts of taming them before it is too late.

“If not nipped in the bud, there will be a major revolution in the next few years. The gangs will only need one person to inspire and unify them towards the cause of hope,” observed Ndura. He will soon launch a peace caravan that will move around the city dissuading youth against crime.

The 42 Brothers gang is embedded in Korogocho, Kasarani, Tassia and Soweto Bridge while Yausa’s territory is in Soweto, Tassia and Komarock.

Nyuki stings in Kabiru, Soko Mjinga and along Gitanga Road. Baghdad gang operates in Mathare and Ruaraka while Usiku Sacco has set base in Tassia and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. Portmore’s stronghold is around Saika and Obama.

Apana Tambua (Majengo), Sitaki Kujua (Majengo), Kapedo (Kangemi), Mgenge (Korogocho), Taka Taka (Zimmerman), Kamjeshi (Maringo), Kamkunji Pressure Group (Kibra) and Taliban (Raila village). Mugumoini Youth Chapter and Mzuka terrorize sprawling Kibra.

Nairobi police commander Japheth Koome was none committal on whether the gangs exist. He instead reiterated criminals will not be tolerated.

“We have no time to joke around with criminals, especially those terrorizing members of the public while armed. We have killed several of them and I don’t know which criminal gangs they belong to,” stated the police boss.

Kaguthi pleaded with residents not to despair but continue reporting to hotline number 22068 assuring them that instant action is taken once the message or distress is received. The chairman said the city has 4,002 active Nyumba Kumi clusters.

Ochieng’ expressed fear that with the General Election around the corner, some of the gangs will become bolder. “It is a complex issue that needs talking to gang members tempted into crime to poverty and idleness,” he added.