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Making good: Ex-con helping in eradicating crime

By Gilbert Kimutai | April 2nd 2021
Peter Kipngeno at his workshop in Bomet town. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

After serving a 12-year jail term, Peter Kipngeno is now back at home helping authorities in Bomet County in fighting crime.

Kipngeno, who was convicted in 2001 for robbery, has since reformed and is now a key member of the community policing initiative in a town that he once terrorized.

For three years, between 2001 and 2004, the 37-year-old led a dreaded criminal gang that caused mayhem in Bomet and Narok counties, forcing the police to issue a shoot to kill order.

"We stopped at nothing to steal so that we could get money to buy alcohol and drugs," said the father of three.

Kipngeno told The Standard that he regrets his criminal past. Kipngeno revealed that his burglary spree started when he was a teenager as he would steal pens from classmates.

Kipngeno then graduated to stealing chicken and eggs from neighbors when schools closed for holidays.

"I could steal a broken pen or a used notebook- not because it will be of use to me, but just to get the satisfaction of stealing. I felt like I had achieved something after stealing. It quickly became a habit.  The robbery series sparked an outcry but I was in denial despite being reprimanded by my parents,” said Kipngeno.

After sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations (KCSE) in 1998, he was employed as a car wash attendant in Bomet town.

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Kipngeno said it was at the car wash that he was introduced to alcohol and got addicted to drugs. He started breaking into shops and mugging people to fund his addiction.

“At one point, I formed a gang which broke into shops, attacked night travelers in public service vehicles and private cars to get money,” he said.

He added: “My gang of four caused widespread fear and losses to innocent people. It is good we did not kill anyone but we left many injured who tried crossing our line,”

Peter Kipngeno at his workshop in Bomet town. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

Barely a day would pass without a shop being broken into and goods worth thousands looted or someone being attacked and robbed.

The situation became so dire that the now-defunct Flying Squad unit was called in to try and track down the gang. That was when the shoot to kill order was issued.

In December 2000, three members of the gang were arrested after breaking into Africa Gospel Church in Bomet town, lifting the lid on the faceless gang.

The arrested gang members spilled the beans on their operation and membership forcing Kipngeno to go into hiding at a relative’s home in Olenguruone, Nakuru County. While in hiding, Kipngeno says he found himself in trouble after breaking into a shop and stealing.

Kipngeno said he was nearly lynched and was forced to flee overnight to another relative’s home in Narok South. “I became a most wanted man by authorities and had to find another hideout,” he said.

In June 2001, Kipngeno returned home from his hideout after months on the run. Police were alerted and he was arrested while playing a game of pool at Bomet town.

“I had no option but to surrender to police officers who were armed to the teeth as they were ready to shoot and kill me,” he said.

Police then paraded him around the streets to announce the end of the manhunt.

“Despite their efforts to calm locals that I was under arrest and no need for further panic, police had a rough time keeping away irate residents who were baying for my blood,” he said.

Kipngeno added: “Locals wanted me lynched, but police insisted I should face the law.”

Three days after his arrest, Kipngeno says he was arraigned and charged with six counts of robbery. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 20 strokes of the cane.

Peter Kipngeno. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

In prison, he transformed.

“Pastors from Correctional Ministries led by Alina Burgat asked if there was anyone who wanted to repent and I chose to start a new life. I decided to fast for days, to reflect on the havoc my behavior caused. The officer in charge at Kericho GK Prison, where I was incarcerated before being freed, challenged me not to reneg on my decision. I accepted the challenge and made a decision to be a crusader against crime and other vices in the society,” said Kipngeno.

After his release, the ministry helped him integrate back to society.

Kipngeno’s father, Samwel Koech, said he feared for the worst on his son's return from prison. 

“My worst fear was his return. In fact, I did not mind him staying longer in prison because I thought he was safe, away from irate members of the public who had been offended by his behavior. I thought he would return worse than he left and was afraid he would be killed,” said Koech.

Determined to turn over a new leaf, Kipngeno enrolled for a theology course at Kaboson Pastor’s School and now ministers at prison facilities in Bomet, Narok, and Kericho counties.

As part of his mission against crime, Kipngeno sponsors students to study computer packages and operates a carpentry shop that taps into the skills of ex-convicts as part of their rehabilitation process.

“I liaise with local prison facilities and tap the skills of ex-convict so that they do not return to crime after their release. It is easy for one to fall into crime when they are idle and that is why I go an extra mile to ensure all youth enroll for computer studies so that they can acquire skills to use in generating money for themselves,” he said.

A message echoed by Bomet Township location chief, Reuben Ngetich, who said Kipngeno's life is a model for the youth to keep from embarking on a life of crime.

“He is has made our work easy and despite that, he is working single handed his moves have helped to reduce crime in society and we encourage him to keep it up,” said.

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