Calls for joint efforts to tackle criminal gangs in African cities

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Nigerian DPP Malami Abubakar and Zanzibar DPP Salma Hassan in Kisauni, Mombasa County, during a visit to Sisters for Justice, an organisation that helps the community access justice and reform the youth. [File, Standard]

Experts in the criminal justice system have cited Mombasa city as a hotbed of criminal gangs despite a drop in cases of terror-related violence.

The experts, however, said the insecurity in the port city was not unique, given that most African cities were also battling terrorism, extremism and other criminal gangs.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said four years ago Mombasa was a hotbed of extremist groups. He singled out Kisauni sub-county which he said was a den of violent gangs, drugs and terrorism. 

“Mombasa has been a hotbed of extremism. Four years ago before coming into office, Kisauni was prone to violence, drug abuse, extremism and terrorism,” said Haji.

Kisauni is a constituency north of Mombasa Island.

The DPP said that some of the factors that were fueling the vices had been tackled.

Haji spoke during his tour, with DPPs from Nigeria, Zanzibar and Seychelles, of the Sisters for Justice (SFJ) centre that has been helping the Kisauni community access justice and reform  youth involved in gang-related activities.

His counterparts from Nigeria, Zanzibar and Seychelles also decried the high number of criminal gangs in their countries.

The prosecutors said there is need for collaboration between the community, government and civil societies to eradicate the vices.

Zanzibar's DPP Salma Abdi said a criminal gang called ‘Panya Road’ has been terrorising residents of Buriburini. She said the gangs wield machetes and steal from people in broad daylight.

“We have Panya Road, a machete-wielding gang that robs us in broad daylight. I have never thought that the DPP can be welcomed there as we have been welcomed here,” said Ms Abdi.

She said communities and civil societies at the grassroots should create synergies with government agencies to deal with such crimes.

Haji said his office sat down with the community and discussed how they could address the issues affecting youths.

“Nigeria is facing problems like ours and they are here to learn how they can replicate our strategies in fighting the problem of violent gangs and extremism,” said Haji.

Nigeria DPP Abubakar Mohammed said the political instability in North Africa has resulted in proliferation of firearms.

Mohammed said Nigeria uses force and dialogue to end drug use, terrorism and related activities.

He said some Nigerians were crossing over to join terrorism in Kenya and vice versa hence the need to collaborate to contain the menace.

SFJ founder Naila Mohamed said Kisauni has been a dangerous area with people losing lives to machete-wielding youth, hence slowing down development.

She said with the launch of a digital website, the community will be able to file complaints without visiting SFJ offices.