Everybody will die some day! Meet the gangster girls of Nairobi’s Eastlands

Kayole OCPD Ali Nuno addressing Njiru residents in Nairobi on June 29, 2015. At least 27 people have been killed in Nairobi in the past four days. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL |

What you need to know:

  • Twenty-one members of the dreaded Gaza group surrendered last week, but the war is far from over.
  • Too many people are dying around here, I don’t think it is something someone will fear a lot, says one of the criminal girls.

When 21 members of the dreaded Gaza gang from Nairobi’s Eastlands surrendered to police in a negotiated deal at Njiru market in Nairobi on Monday afternoon, two things stood out.

One, although 39 out of the intended 60 did not surrender according to the Kayole police chief, the relief to the community – including parents of some of the members who were present – was palpable. After all, this gang, comprising mostly teenagers, has wreaked havoc in the estates for two years.

Secondly, and more baffling, was the presence of girls among the group that surrendered at the highly publicised ceremony.

While the presence of gangs in Kenya is well documented, the criminal outfits are largely male dominated, with females playing peripheral roles.

And, despite terrorising residents in the areas they operate in, gangs have largely tried to remain invincible to law enforcement agencies by operating under the radar and sometimes going underground during a government onslaught. But in the larger Eastlands and despite a two-year crackdown by the government on Gaza, it appears the war does not have an end in sight.

For instance, just two days after the negotiated amnesty in Njiru, the Chief Inspector in charge of Administration Police in the sub- county was shot dead and robbed of a Ceska pistol and his valuables at a bus stop in the same market where the 21 gang members had surrendered 48 hours earlier.

Kayole OCPD Ali Nuno links the officer’s killing to Gaza, saying it was not a normal robbery as the gangsters knew Mr Anjers Kiwanuka by name and even identified him before shooting him twice.
Last week, Chief Inspector John Gicheru of Kasarani Police Division was shot while on patrol.

And on April 28 at about 10.30 pm, a five-member gang in their teens stormed Mihang’o Police Station in Kayole and attempted to steal firearms.

This seems to be the order of the day in Kayole and the neighbouring estates of Dandora, Komarock, Njiru, Kasarani, Umoja, Utawala and Doonholm, where a two-year police crackdown on the teenage gangs has not been able to tame them.


About 240 teenagers have been arrested between January and June this year for criminal activities associated with the gang. Out of these, almost a quarter are girls, according to Mr Nuno. Almost an equal number has been gunned down for being in possession of firearms.

The situation is spine-chilling: Mr Nuno said: “Almost everybody here is armed and I am not talking about one or two guns; there are thousands of firearms in the hands of young boys and girls. We are gunning down at least one teenager every two days. If we don’t today, then the next day one is killed. This is the order of the day here.”

Mr Nuno was brought in from the Kiganjo Police College in September last year to replace Mr Joseph Ndegwa in a bid to tame the gang, which had spiralled out of control. Mr Ndegwa lasted only seven months in the area after replacing Mr Samuel Mukinda who was among top officers transferred from the division within hours of an expose by the Sunday Nation on the emergence of the gang in February last year.

“Anyone found with a firearm will be shot on sight, and they know it. Because of our aggressiveness the faction that surrendered approached elders to negotiate on their behalf as they have seen so many of their friends die but we are watching them,” said Mr Nuno.

But despite the OCPD’s resolve, what is troubling is the increased active involvement of girls in the gang’s activities. Some of the girls, according to area residents, are younger, tougher and just as violent, sometimes more violent than their male counterparts.

In February, two girls were part of a five-member gang that terrorised shopkeepers at Corner area in Kayole estate.


Mr Edgar Ocharo, whose pharmacy was among the ones attacked, says the girls who appeared younger than the rest of the gang members collected the loot as the boys issued threats to terrified shopkeepers.

“Two beautiful girls walked in. They were well dressed and adorned necklaces. When I asked them ‘Niwasaidie na nini?’ (How may I help you?) they answered; ‘mula’ (street word for money),” Mr Ocharo said.

“I laughed it off but before I finished two boys who were also wearing a lot of chains walked in and immediately I saw them I knew I was being robbed,” he told the Sunday Nation.

Still in the same month, another girl stabbed a man in Saba Saba area, killing him on the spot. According to police, the girl accosted the man demanding his phone and money. The man did not take her demands seriously and tried to walk away.  He was stabbed in the stomach before being robbed of his valuables.

The girl in the second incident, according to those living near the spot where the man was stabbed, was wearing a lot of jewellery, too.

Wayawaya, the Eastlands street slang for silver necklaces and rings popular with girl gangsters, has become their trademark. And they are not afraid to show them off plus their firearms and drugs even on the Internet as the Sunday Nation established.

In one of her pictures uploaded on Facebook, a girl calling herself Lexy Galdem Shuga – six of her Facebook friends have been gunned down in the last one year – displays four bullets placed on Kenyan currency notes and American dollars.

Among her friends who have been gunned down is Thomas Warui Njoka in August last year, whom the police identified as one of the leaders of Gaza.

The comments that follow the uploaded photo show a worrying level of bravado and open discussion about crime among young people. “Tell me when you go to steal others,” says one of the commentators. “She is not courageous, she is just a pick and run person,” says another in sheng. “And the way she brags when she is with Danco!” says another.

In another uploaded photo by a girl referring to herself as Slim Toto whom we have established comes from Huruma, an AK-47 rifle is photograped on a bed with the subtitle “Point 45 Gaza”.
Sense of belonging

Previously raped and harassed by members of male-dominated gangs that have terrorised Eastlands for about two decades, girls have taken up active roles not only for protection but to get a sense of belonging.

Before the creation of Gaza following a vacuum created by the crackdown on Mungiki, other gangs such as Taliban and Super Power have all terrorised these areas. But unlike Gaza, which is made up of teenagers, the other gangs were predominantly run by older men who saw girls as easy targets.

“One has to get a sense of belonging, and when an area has been controlled by gangs inheriting each other’s turfs, those being victimised eventually join them for survival,” said Mr Nuno.

“Regardless of what people say, it is better off belonging to Mauki (a street name for Gaza) than living a hopeless life while your friends, girls you grew up with, live better lives than you,” said Fauzia (her street name).

“Furthermore, you are offered a family that you can fall back on whenever you have a problem. Anything can happen at any time; the youth are being killed by police every day and you need people to watch your back,” she added.

Her house, in which she offered us an interview on Friday morning in Mihang’o, is well furnished according to the standards of a low income neighbourhood.

The seats were relatively new and cozy, a 42-inch plasma TV was playing dancehall music through a modest home theatre system and in one corner was a water dispenser.

Throughout the interview her two-year-old baby was rolling on the carpet and giggling obviously unaware of the source of money that bought it. Rolls of bhang and silver necklaces took pride of place on a stool at the corner.

Despite dropping out of school in Form Two, Fauzia is living a life most residents in the area can only dream of. It is this life that is pushing more and more girls to the gang.

“If a man is caught by the police in an operation, most likely they will be shot, but the police are unlikely to shoot a girl, so we fill in,” she said.

In April 2013, a female gangster who was with eight men that had carjacked a matatu in Kariobangi South was gunned down after the driver drove into Dandora Police Station. “The other gang members managed to jump out and escaped but the woman, who we believe was an accomplice, was shot in the process,” Nairobi police boss Ben Kibue said.

“Too many people are dying around here, I don’t think it is something someone will fear a lot,” argued Fauzie when asked if she feared being killed.

On Facebook, a trail of eulogies on Gaza gangsters barely out of their teens fill the pages of other gang members and their friends. Others who have eulogised their friends have also sadly died the same way.

“I am in public office. Thousands of people depend on me for their safety and lives and, if I can’t guarantee them that, then I should go back home. There are no two ways about it,” says Mr Nuno, the OCPD.