In Kayole, Nairobi, where babies are used to lure robbery victims, spineless gangsters have formed an unholy alliance with crooked law enforcers, leaving no hiding place for the residents.
Here, terrified tenants talk in hushed voices about their hair-raising encounters with the bloodthirsty gangsters, who rob, maim and kill with impunity.
Investigations by The Standard indicate the area is run by three gangs — Gaza, Yakuza and Smarter — which has members as young as 15. The gangs have carved spheres of influence to minimise conflict and gangland killing.
For ease of operation, Gaza, the main gang, has a unique way of identifying it members.
The members use open shoes which expose their toes. The shoes are tightly secured to ensure they do not slip off when the goons are chasing after a victim or fleeing from police officers.
The gangsters also identify each other through body tattoos, mostly a dragon or the Gaza name. Some criminals prefer to have a tear drop tattooed on a body part which can be clearly seen or even three cuts on either of the eyebrow.
Knives and guns
Our contacts told us that Gaza, whose members use swords, knives and guns, has morphed into Yakuza which specialises in bank robberies. Yakuza and Smarter also control the dumpsite and charge those who dump waste there.
“We use babies to bait our victims because we know that Kenyans would not suspect a nursing mother to be a criminal and are easily moved by a crying baby,” explained one of the gang members who plies her deadly trade at Masimba stage.
Women who have been recruited into the gang avoid breast feeding and even use their babies as a ruse to victims. The mothers take their babies to robberies and pinch them to make them cry and cause the target to come out at night where they are attacked.
Tenants who opt to take their garbage to the dumpsite have to part with between Sh50 to Sh100 depending on the volume of waste. Trucks attract a fee of between Sh150 to Sh250 depending on their sizes.
A resident who gave his name as Peter said landlords are expected to pay protection fee to avoid being attacked at night.
“At Patanisho area, property owners have to pay between Sh100 to Sh300 per month to the gang as protection fees or risk their houses being broken into,” Peter explained.
Those planning to put up a buildings are also required to make payments to the gang members to be allowed to construct houses.
“You are not safe here. The obvious targets are Mpesa operators, hospitals, churches and mama mbogas who have to go to the markets very early in the morning to buy their wares. Then we have those who cook tea in the morning,” said a terrified resident who didn’t want to be named.
The residents say they lose their loved ones weekly and have lost count of how many people die monthly in the area. They equate deaths in the region to extra-judicial killings. At the end of the month, a peak period for the criminals, residents have to devise ways of not carrying money lest they lose the whole of it to the gang members.
“Most of us now send money via Mpesa to our vegetable suppliers and only carry Sh200 for transport. When you meet the young boys and girls, they just slap you and let you go,” a mama mboga said.
The residents said they have also resorted to sending money to their spouses instead of carrying cash to minimise loss in the event of an attack. A man who identified himself as Muli blamed the Government for the havoc being visited on innocent, unarmed residents or visitors to Kayole.
“If the Government is keen to end this criminal activities, it will only take two days. But it can’t because the police officers are benefiting from the loot. Otherwise how do you explain that seven suspected thieves who were gunned down in Molo, Nakuru recently were Gaza members and police officers from Kayole,” Muli said.
He also claimed security officers lease their guns to the criminals. “These are young people who have not even cleared Standard Eight or are secondary school drop outs. It is hard to explain where they get guns and kill people as if they are birds, yet police officers are quiet,” Muli said.
His story was corroborated by a police officer who provided security to this writer during his investigations. The policeman, who worked in Dandora for a decade but also used to cross over to Kayole for special assignments, acknowledges that bad apples in the police force collaborate with the crooks.
“Many of us put our lives at risk to safeguard members of the public and their property but some of us work closely with the criminals by giving them guns to steal and then they share the spoils,” he said.
The officer, said Gaza partly owns the 42 brothers gang, whose members are armed with knives and operate in dark routes and bus stations.
“This team is responsible for thefts in supermarkets in the Central Business District and also terrorises and steals from passengers at night. Some who are employed as security guards duplicate keys of the tenants,” the officer said.
The Standard established that male members of the gang recruit young and beautiful women to carry firearms for them and also to spy on potential male victims and lure them into their traps.
A member of Gaza confessed that they work with some police officers and matatu crews to commit crimes.
“The security personnel are aware of our activities. Matatu crew monitors passengers to help identify the ones with big denomination notes and expensive phones and alert us. We then waylay the vehicles and steal from passengers. We kill those who resist or disobey our orders,” he said.
Some of the gang members who operate in the city centre join matatu conductors late in the evening to tout for passengers. They lie to the passengers that they would charged a certain amount of money to Kayole but demand more once they are in the vehicles.
Another strategy commonly used by the criminals is sending their girls to lure male passengers or bar patrons.
“Once you strike rapport with the girl, one of the boys will emerge and claim to be the girl’s boyfriend and accuse you of infidelity. The girl feigns ignorance but you will be targeted,” The Standard established.
Some commercial sex workers, also work in cahoots with the boys. “The women will be nice to you and suggest you take a room in a lodging. If you have a car, the boys will follow you up, pretend to beat both of you and hijack you and later steal from you. They then kill you and escape with your car,” a resident said.
Kayole OCPD, Joseph Gichangi admitted that the gangsters have been terrorising Kayole residents but police are doing everything possible to secure the area.
“We have intensified patrols in the most affected areas. These are Kayole Corner, Masimba, Patanisho and part of Soweto. We are working with residents to share information with us so that we can wipe them out,” the OCPD added. The gang is also active in Kayole Corner, Patanisho, Riverbank, Rasta, Saba Saba and Nyando Kioi areas of Kayole.
About the leasing of guns by police to criminals, the OCPD said it is possible that some officers have been colluding with criminals by hiring out weapons and sharing the spoils of crime.
“We are investigating this and any officer found to have committed such a crime will be dealt with according to the law,” Mr Gichangi said.