Inside 'Confirm': Nakuru's deadliest gang behind xenophobic attacks

Injured people gather to protect themselves against attacks by members of the notorious Confirm gang in Bondeni, Nakuru city on May 11, 2022. 

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen I Nation Media Group

Ongoing court cases are shedding light on Nakuru’s most dreaded gang, Confirm, with revelations about rival factions, a well-structured command, ruthless foot soldiers and a distinct dressing code.

It is composed of young boys, some in their teens, who do not hesitate to harm at the slightest provocation, and now, they are holding the town in the grip of fear and threaten to destabilise the newest city in Kenya as the polls draw near.

From murders to robbery, phone snatching to drug peddling, the gang that arose from the Kivumbini slums of Nakuru grows, and day in day out a cycle of fear reigns.

How authorities are overwhelmed by the outlawed criminal gang’s influence is still a mystery.

The latest publicised victims of the gang are foreigners – six Rwandan nationals, who were attacked and injured by the gang’s members in Bondeni last week.

Fredrick Munialo at his home in weavers Estate in Nakuru West  nursing  serious head  injuries after being attacked by a Gang on July 8, 2021. The gang in an organized group is terrorizing the area

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen I Nation Media Group

The six – Hazikimana Eziel, 25, Juvenal Bucumi, 24, Nduwimana Edmond, 27, Niyikiza Bernard, 23, Chris Charire 28, and Igisubizo Jean Pier, 24 – were attacked at their rental house, where they have lived for three years. They are still nursing injuries. Two of the suspects were arraigned on Wednesday, May 18.

Nation.Africa went to the gang’s dens in Kivumbini, Bondeni and Rhonda to look into its history, structure, operation and why the police can’t end their activities.

We learnt that the gang has now spread its tentacles across different parts of the country, and is leveraging the election period to make money.

The gang began in 2010 as a group of three idle youths from a Nakuru slum who decided to explore the loopholes in mobile money services to get easy money from gullible Kenyans.

By sending fake M-Pesa messages to random cell phone numbers they swindled huge sums of money from ignorant Kenyans. It took a short time before people started noticing their change in fortunes.

The name Confirm was instantly coined for the group that was expanding rapidly across different corners of the slum.

Member of confirm Gang  Bondeni In Nakuru city  confessing  crimes the gang commits in Nakuru city on May 18, 2022

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen I Nation Media Group

Fast-forward to 2022, and the country is dealing with an epidemic. The group has mutated into an organised deadly criminal gang that is not only involved in mobile money fraud but is also a threat to people’s lives and property.

A former member of the gang, whom we christened Ken for his safety, said he was among the founders of the group who, out of conscientiousness, decided to exit the group after about a decade.

He explains that the group was formed by an ex-convict who was a relative of his friend in Kivumbini, Nakuru East constituency.

The relative had just left prison after serving his term for theft. By then, Ken had just finished Form Four and was yet to figure out what to do.

“I went to visit my friend at their house and found his brother in the company of two others making calls and talking about being agents of Safaricom, a telecommunication company which provided mobile money service,” said Ken.

He says he could see them celebrate once the money was sent by unknown persons, which made him curious about what they were doing.

After a few days, he started noticing a change in their lives as they started wearing new clothes and had lots of money. In no time, Ken was recruited as well.

“I was very happy as we could make so much money in an easy way. In a day, I could go home with around Sh50,000 to 70,000,” said Ken.

Injured Hakizimana Eziel a Rwandan hide against attack from members of the Nakuru notorious Confirm gang in Bondeni, Nakuru city on May 12, 2022. Five Rwandans are nursing injuries after Sunday attack by the gang.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen I Nation Media Group

The task was simple: send an edited M-Pesa message to random numbers and then purport that you had mistaken the number and request the recipient to reverse.

At the time, many Kenyans were not aware of the scam and out of kindness, they ‘refunded’ the money only to discover too late that they had been conned.

“Once the victim sent the money, it was immediately withdrawn and their phone numbers blocked,” he said.

After a public outcry over increasing cases of M-Pesa fraud, the telco sensitised the public on the scam.

This forced the group to up its game. They moved into the replacement of SIM cards in a bid to con people.

This required at least three people, whom they called ‘Onyango’, ‘Kagia’ and ‘Tutu’. According to Ken, each of the three had their roles.

Onyango is the person who sends the fake M-Pesa message to the ‘wrong recipient’, Kagia, a name derived from the name of the famous Safaricom agent Danson Kagia, was to act as a Safaricom agent, while Tutu was to withdraw the money received from the victim.

Each of the three individuals held different mobile phones, which were also assigned different names including Seska, Landline and Kirai.

Seska was the line used to send the fake M-Pesa message, Landline was the fake agent while Kirai received money from the victim.

In the working arrangement, Onyango uses Seska to edit and send fake M-Pesa text to different numbers in a process called coding.

Coding, according to Ken, means taking any number, from their own phonebook or guessing, saving the first seven digits and altering the third last digit, before beginning the coding process again.

The text is edited to appear current by altering the confirmation code and changing the date and the amount of money, while the balance is replaced with the word PENDING or LOCKED. Initially the sender of the message used to be John Onyango, a name that they adopted.

Onyango would call any number that shows a delivery notice and ask the person whether they have received the money. He would claim to have spoken to Safaricom agents who had promised to reverse the money.

But he would give the victim the option of reversing the money by themselves with Sh500 less, which they would claim is a token for saving them time.

Rwandans patrol in groups against attack from members of the Nakuru notorious Confirm gang in Bondeni, Nakuru city on May 12, 2022. Five Rwandans are nursing injuries after Sunday attack by the gang

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen I Nation Media Group

Some victims buy the idea, only to send their own money. They send the money to a different number that they are given by Kagia.

Those who do not agree to this option are advised to wait for a call from a Safaricom agent.

This is where Kagia calls with his landline to pose as an agent intending to reverse the money.

“This line must be unique to appear like the ones used by the corporates such as 0200… or 0100... a number with many zeros and 2 is more preferred,” Ken said.

He said that “we buy them at slightly higher prices than the other lines and are registered by the telco staff, whom we pay between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000 for a single line”.

Once you fall into the trap, he will ask some confusing questions which will make you end up revealing your ID number, date of birth and balance in your account.

After getting these details, they would ask you to switch off your phone for about 20 minutes. During this time, they will rush to an M-Pesa agent, replace your line, withdraw all your money and even borrow from M-Shwari.

Job (not his real name), who is still an active member, says if a victim has no money in their account they would convince them to get assistance from any other person closer to them, and use their phones to dial some codes that will reveal their personal details before pouncing on them.

“We also convince others to go to the nearest M-Pesa agent for assistance before we also pounce on the agents. At the agent’s shop we first establish their experience before we decide on whether to proceed with the plan,” said job.

However, the Nation has learnt that the sharing of the loot is the main cause of disagreements among gang members that resulted in division and fights.

According to Job, all the gang members initially used to operate from the same point in Kivumbini but disagreements led to the formation of numerous splinter groups that formed bases in different areas in Rhonda, Bondeni, Flamingo and Kivumbini.

Among the operation bases are Makaveli, Wazebede and Frontyard in the Bondeni slums; Bankok, Dema, SGR and Wazebez in Flamingo; and Mathare, Minted and Kamiti in Kivumbini.

Others are Wazito wa TZ in Rhonda and Kanyon, India, and Machanga

The Confirm gang is, however, divided into two main factions –  Wakamiti in Kivumbini and Flamingo, and Wazito wa TZ or Watanzania in Rhonda and Bondeni.

The two rival groups Wakamiti and WaTZ are said to have developed bad blood after the division.

According to Ken, WaTZ comprises members who were initially robbers and former convicts while the Wakamiti are teenagers, youths and former football players whose careers failed to take off.

He explains that WaTZ are a violent group that moves around while armed with crude weapons and knives.

He says the differences started emerging when WaTZ suspected that Wakamiti were setting them up for the police.

WaTZ allegedly isolated themselves and planned to teach the Wakamiti a lesson.

“They (WaTZ) eat together, dress in football jerseys and talk in a certain distinct way. Whenever they take alcohol they always want to attack members of the Wakamiti. When they do, Wakamiti also vows to take revenge,” said Ken.

The rivalry has become so intense that it has led to a deadly clash where at least eight gang members from both sides died while others were left with stab wounds.

Residents who were caught up in the clash paid with their lives while others were injured.

The attacks included one that occurred in November 2020 when the two rival groups clashed in a daylong retaliatory attack that left four people dead in Kivumbini.

This was barely six months after an innocent resident was killed in a daylight clash between the members in Flamingo.

In the June attack, gang members burned down two homes and destroyed dozens of others as they fought.

Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui said the clash was a reaction to a police crackdown conducted that day.

Nakuru Town East Police Commander Elena Kabukuru said two members of the gang were arrested in connection with the attack.

In 2016, the Interior Cabinet Secretary at the time, George Nkaissery, listed the Confirm gang among 89 illegal organisations in Kenya, declaring war on them.

Six years later, the group still finds Nakuru a safe haven for their activities.

In December 2020, the Nakuru County security team unveiled a special unit composed of officers from the National Police Service and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to deal with the gang. But the gang is still terrorising residents and insiders say the gang thrives with the support of rogue police officers, who even rent weapons to them.

According to Ken, any member of the group who is arrested must part with Sh1,000 to get his freedom. But when the case gets to court the amount rises to Sh10,000.

“When we go to court, the police usually request one week to conclude investigations, but in reality they are giving us time to look for the Sh10,000 … At times police will arrest you and release you to go and look for the money,” said Ken.

The group has given rise to other gangs, which are involved in snatching phones, robbery and peddling drugs. It is hard to tell how many youths are in the gangs, but the police estimate there are more than 400.

Odipu, one of the senior members of the gang, said those involved in these crimes are former members who exited after getting hooked on drugs.

“The mobile money fraud requires someone who is sober and patient but once you get hooked on drugs you will not be able to concentrate and thus the reason for going into the other crimes,” noted Odipu.

The members said it is difficult for a Confirm member to reform because when they are broke, they find themselves going back.

The gang’s activities have had negative economic impacts in the areas where they operate, as some business owners close their shops early for fear of being robbed.

“The emergence of this gang has killed the once-thriving Kivumbini shopping centre, which is now a ghost town with only a few traders who close their shops early,” said John Kimani, a resident.

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