Nakuru County had for years grappled with the threat of insecurity brought about by organised criminal gangs.
However, the spate of insecurity reached its peak in 2022 when the gangs took their operations to higher levels which left residents in shock and fear.
A criminal outfit ‘Confirm’ which was outlawed in 2016 was said to be behind the surge in the heinous crimes that were being reported in the county.
The gang, whose members operate from the slum areas of Bondeni, Kivumbini, Rhonda and Kivumbini within Nakuru town, posed a huge challenge in the efforts towards peaceful coexistence in Kenya's newest city.
But the failure of the police to contain the runaway crimes committed by the gangs is, however, what brought to sharp scrutiny, their ability to protect lives and safeguard the property of residents in the volatile Rift Valley county, especially during the electioneering period.
And when the country went full-blown into an election mood, the gangs, which were on the loose, found an opportunity to intensify their activities with impunity.
Daylight murders, robberies and muggings within the town’s central business district and its environments are what became the new state of affairs in the region.
As the political class intensified their campaigns, the crime rate surged correspondingly.
What, however, captured the attention of the country were the shocking murders of women which were allegedly perpetrated by members of the so-called Confirm gang.
In what was said to be one of the daring moves, the gang members invaded houses in Mawanga areas of the Bahati sub-county during day time and raped and killed women before making away with valuables.
At least eight women were killed on different dates by gang members in the Bahati sub-county alone.
Among the casualties of the horrifying murders were Grace Wanjiru, 20, Susan Wambui, 38, Diana Opicho, 23, Beatrice Akinyi, 21, Judy Nyambura, 40, Shadiah Cheupe, 17, and Rimsy Wanjiru, 11, who were killed on diverse dates between June and July this year.
A public outcry that came in the wake of the murders drew the attention of the country’s top security chiefs who were forced to take action.
And on June 29 then Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i led a delegation of security chiefs to a high-level meeting in Nakuru where a raft of measures were outlined.
Also in attendance were then Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti, then Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and GSU Commandant Douglas Kanja, among other top security chiefs.
After the meeting, Dr Matiang’i announced key changes to the security docket in the county including the reshuffling of officers across the ranks.
He further announced the decision to redeploy the Nakuru County Police Commander Beatrice Kiraguri back to Vigilance House (police headquarters) and promoted then Kasarani police OCPD Peter Mwanzo to take over from her in Nakuru with immediate effect.
The former CS, who regretted the criminal incidents, promised to bring to annihilate the Confirm gang for good.
“We have all the resources, we are not going to sleep until we get the last one of them,” he said, adding that the government would employ unprecedented fire and force.
What followed the announcement was a move by the police to swing into action in an operation to crack down on the gang members.
In the ensuing days, dozens of youth were rounded up from the slums while suspects in the murders of the women were arrested and charged in court.
The main suspect Evans Michori Kebwaro, who is alleged to be the mastermind in the killing of three women in Mawanga and Kiamaina, was arrested in Kisii County on June 30 by detectives from the elite Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau in collaboration with special service units.
The detectives established that Kebwaro is a jailbird with a long criminal record in which he was convicted and served various sentences in prison.
After his fresh arrest, Mr Makori revealed the names of his accomplices namely Julius Otieno, 27, Josephat Simiyu, 24, Mmbolo 25, Isaac Kinyanjui, 18, and Makhola Wanjala 25. The suspects are facing murder charges before the high court in Nakuru.
Some Nakuru politicians including former Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, Nakuru West MP Samwel Aram and his Nakuru East Counterpart David Gikaria were also summoned to shed light on their links with the gangs.
A month later, the police arrested a man said to be the ringleader of the Confirm gang.
Mr Dickson Macharia Waithera was arrested in his house in Kivumbini estate of Nakuru East sub-county.
Mr Mwanzo, the Nakuru County Police Commander, said the suspect, who is the leader of the dreaded gang, ran a narcotic network that has recruited over 200 youths and was on police radar for years. He said the suspect had escaped several arrests.
Narcotics worth Sh 300,000 street value, opium, a phone and a laptop were recovered from his house.
In another controversial move, the police killed four youths in Barut who were alleged to be members of the deadly Nyuki squad in Kaptembwo.
The gang menace became such an issue that it formed part of the agendas of the various gubernatorial candidates including then Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, and then Senator Susan Kihika (now Nakuru Governor).
Upon assuming office following her election, Ms Kihika met with the county security team in a bid to beef up the region's security.
She underscored the need for leaders to work closely with the police in the fight against criminal gangs.
“We have agreed as leaders to work closely with the police in security matters. Moving forward no political leader shall side with any criminal groupings,” she said.
Mr Mwanzo also reiterated that the security team would not relent in the fight against the criminal gangs.
He said there was a need for members of the public to work with the police for the fight to succeed.
“We will ensure every single member of the gang is eliminated. Our officers are not only working to wipe out the gang members but also the individuals suspected to be a threat to the security of this county,” said Mr Mwanzo