The name “42 Brothers” sparks feelings of fear and anxiety among Kisumu residents.
This is the latest gang to emerge in the lakeside city whose members, a group of youths, are said to be recruited from Nyamasaria, Manyatta B and Nyalenda A.
In the past, China Squad, American Marine and Baghdad were the most dreaded gangs which caused security scares and controlled huge resources in the city.
The three criminal groups are believed to have well-organised operations and control the main bus terminus, stalls in particular streets and various bus stops within estates where they impose “taxes” in order to allow various businesses to operate.
The “42 Brothers”, has, however, emerged with a new trend of attacking unsuspecting residents using machetes and robbing them of money and other electronic gadgets.
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Victims of the attacks say the gang operates along the Kisumu-Nairobi Highway and surrounding estates where they hunt down their prey and drag them to particular locations where they rob, beat and rape the victims before leaving them for dead.
According to Kisumu Residents’ Voice, more than 600 cases have been reported since July.
Residents are now calling on the police to take charge, saying many of the suspects are known and the modes of crime are also similar.
Last month, a pastor and his wife were accosted by five armed men who viciously attacked them, leaving them with broken limbs.
Pastor Timothy Owenga of Ministry of Repentance and Holiness was leading a night vigil at Rabuor when he together with his wife (Pauline Adhiambo) were kidnapped and later dumped at Ogango estate.
“We had just completed the vigil and were transporting some brethren to their homes. It is then that the gang who were driving in a saloon car blocked our vehicle and commanded us to get out,” narrated Owenga.
The gang reportedly asked for the car and Sh150,000, but the pastor declined and this landed them in trouble.
“They put us in the boot of their vehicle. On reaching Ogango, the gang started beating us after robbing us of some little money, as well as mobile phones,” he added from his hospital bed at Milimani Hospital.
Even though police have identified the crime hotspots, residents remain skeptical. Police have arrested seven suspects in the latest swoop, including a hardcore criminal believed to be a member of the “42 Brothers” gang.
The National Administration and police on Tuesday launched a campaign to raise security alerts in parts of the city.
Up to yesterday, chiefs from Manyatta B and Nyamasaria walked from house-to-house in the company of police officers, informing them of the operations.
Area Sub-County Commissioner Ole Tutui said the move was aimed at bridging the information gap between residents and police so as to facilitate the crackdown on the gang.
In Kisii and Nyamira counties, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) has cited the emergence of a vigilante group in the disguise of community policing teams.
IPOA said it is carrying out investigations on claims of the evolving vigilante group in the two counties and could soon release a report on the same.
Concerns of the emergence of the criminal gang reminds a number of residents of the once dreaded ‘Sungusungu’ sometimes back in 2003 that was formed to quell rising crime rates at that time.
“We are concerned that some individuals of the former dreaded ‘Sungusungu’ are now disguised as members of the community policing committees and their criminal activities are still prevalent in various parts of region,” said a Kisii town businessman Charles Mokaya.
Speaking in Kisii on Wednesday during a police-public sensitisation forum, IPOA board member Tom Kagwe said they are probing claims that a vigilante group was used to harass demonstrating Kisii University students early last year.
He said the current policing groups in the region were not legally formed.
According to Retired Colonel Hared Hassan of the Ipoa Inspection and Monitoring, civilian oversight is critical to democratic control and governance of the security sector, and creation of Ipoa, stipulated in the IPOA Bill, is crucial as it will provide accountability and monitoring functions over the police service.