Juvenile gangs have re-emerged in Mombasa and are now wreaking havoc in Likoni and Kisauni sub-counties.
For almost a year, the coastal county has recorded reduced incidence of crime, with security authorities attributing it to the containment measures imposed by the national government to curb coronavirus.
But County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo yesterday said the machete-wielding criminals are back and are stabbing people using crude weapons.
The gangs continue to reign terror in parts of Mombasa even though police maintain patrols have been heightened.
Between June and August, several incidents of the gang attacks have been reported, with authorities now on high alert as the election approaches.
On August 26, several people were injured when a machete welding gang attacked residents at Kona ya Zamani.
A week earlier, a gang of 40 went on rampage attacking residents and severely injuring nine people in Harambee, Misufini and Jamvi la Wageni.
On August 1, a 40-year-old guard manning a church was murdered in cold blood in broad daylight.
On June 18, two other machete-wielding suspected gang members were killed at Masjid Mzungu Mchafu, near Shelly Beach.
Mr Kitiyo directed chiefs and police to deal with the gangs before the August 2022 General Election or be sacked. He also urged the community to name the drug barons operating in the port city.
“We are concerned that the gangs are reemerging ahead of the polls. That is why we want to suppress them. Two weeks ago, the youth stabbed some Likoni residents,” he said at a security meeting in Likoni.
He warned chiefs against “protecting” the gangs, whose members, he said, are also peddling and abusing drugs. The criminals are aged between 12 to 15.
“You must measure up to your job. Chiefs have the mandate and power to deal with juvenile gangs. A 12 or 14-year-old boy carrying a panga? When they regroup, residents flee, even the chief. That’s cowardice! The boys brandish their crude weapons and the whole village flees. Stop believing in witchcraft,” he said.
Mr Kitiyo urged parents to take their responsibilities seriously.
“These children that you birthed are stubbing people and later go into hiding. But you will start blaming the police. To end these crimes, you must take up your responsibilities,” he said, urging parents to reveal the identities of their wayward children.
“These boys are not aliens, they are our children, we know them, they are just juvenile gangs.”
Mr Kitiyo, the county security committee chairman, directed police to promptly deal with the gangs.
“Take those criminals to the police stations. I blame chiefs, your positions are unique, deal with these criminals, do not tolerate criminality. Don’t be cowards,” he said.
Whistleblowers and village elders said they want police protection and blamed human rights organisations for protecting criminals.
“We know the gangs but we cannot talk. We are ready to name all the criminals but we need protection. Human rights groups in Mombasa are also fuelling the situation by siding with the suspects,” said a whistleblower.
The county commissioner cited drug abuse, consumption of illicit brews and joblessness as factors pushing the youth into crime.
Likoni, Kisauni and Nyali are the most insecure sub-counties in Mombasa while Mvita, Jomvu and Changamwe enjoy relative peace and tranquility.
In July, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) warned the reemergence of criminal gangs is a threat to peace and security.
“We are aware that in Mombasa gangs are sometimes used to cause violence. Youth are used to threaten people against voting or support a particular party or people,” said NCIC Commissioner Dorcas Kedogo who spoke at Sentrim Castle Royal Hotel, in Mombasa.
Ms Kedogo urged the youth to maintain peace and refuse to be used by politicians to cause violence.