A crowd viewing the body of one of the three gangsters killed by police officers in Nakuru town. They were trailed by flying squad after a tip-off while in a mission to commit a crime. The suspects are believed to have been terrorizing Nakuru residents lately.PHOTOS BY HARUN WATHARI.
Elijah Mbugua Njoroge, 20, was gunned down by the police on Friday night in Utawala, Nairobi, part of two suspects whom police said were killed during a botched robbery in the estate they live in.
Njoroge had all characteristics you wouldn’t associate with the textbook description of a Kenyan gangster.
His family lives in their own house in Utawala, a middle-class neighbourhood. He is the son of a policeman; his father Njoroge Mbugua is the OCPD Runyenjes. His family vehemently refutes that he was a thug. “If he was a thief, they should have taken him to court,” his mother Florence Shiabati told the press.
“My son was brought up by police officers so he knows how to behave when confronted by them. They were stopped and harassed by the police but they did not have what they were looking for,” she claimed.
Bling bling gangsters
But as investigations continue into the bizarre killing of the son of a policeman by government bullets, a worrying phenomenon of crime has gripped the capital.
Why Kenyans think the law is truly an ass
Increasing cases of burglary, carjackings and shoplifting committed by youth barely out of their teens is driving insecurity in Nairobi to soaring levels. Unknown to many is that the people mugging and stabbing them are not your ordinary thugs from the slums who lack of jobs and hence pushed them to crime.
These teenage criminals are bling bling gangsters. Boys and girls barely out of their teens whom crime is, according to psychologists, a way to show bravado, buy flashy clothes, jewelry, get money for alcohol, partying and sex. The common denominator is their love for jewelry and a celebrity lifestyle.
Flamboyant, reckless, gun totting and tech savvy, these youths are not necessarily from poor backgrounds. They operate using encrypted social media platforms that are difficult to penetrate even to security forces are the new face of crime. But unlike the old school gangs that survive on extortion and creation of a sense of insecurity, the new gangs are impatient, in a rush to make money but equally as vicious. Anyone who stands on their way to riches is killed without provocation, including the police.
On their trail are officers from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) who are gunning them down in their dozens on suspicion of engaging in crime, creating what is increasingly being Kenya’s newest social crisis.
Last week’s killing of two boys in Eastleigh was the boiling point of this war between the police and gun totting youth. Some have termed the killings extrajudicial.
But in a total show of defiance, the newest gangsters in town continue to litter their Facebook and Instagram pages with pictures of them posing with wads of money or fire arms.
Such is the description of Thomas Warui Njoka alias Tomaso Gagula. His father David Njoka is a senior manager at the Ministry of Health while his social media savvy mother Catherine Njoka works at Kenyatta University (KU) and is yet to accept his son’s death.
“We miss you and love you beyond measure. But your love, my love for you and above all, God’s love keeps me going. I know the angels sang a beautiful ballad in your honour. I love you! Till we meet again, lala salama (sleep well),” she recently said.
Sunday Standard understands he dropped out from Pioneer School in Maragua at form two. How he moved from his parents house in Lang’ata to Kayole is still an unanswered question. His Facebook page, however, shows he loved the good life, whiskey and women.
In one of his posts he wrote: “You only have one life, you live it to the fullest not knowing what happens tomorrow.”
“If wishes were horses beggars would ride,” he wrote in another post with a picture of a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black Whiskey and a couple of beers.
He was 22 when he was eventually gunned down by SPCU officers who had been trailing his gang for three days.
“The detectives had information that the armed suspects were trailing a white lorry that was full of gas cylinders. The lorry was stopped by a traffic police officer at the junction of Limuru Road and the UN Avenue who directed the driver to park at the Kobil petrol station, not knowing that the vehicle was being trailed,” said Gigiri OCPD Vitalis Otieno.
“The suspects followed them there, parked next to the pump and then asked the attendant to fuel their car for Sh500. When the police ordered them to step out, a shoot-out ensued,” he said.
Now close to two years after his death, a trawling of his social media pages by Sunday Standard has lifted the lid on the shocking scale of teenage gang related activity in the city.
Njoka was a member of the Mauki Family, which operates in Eastlands. From our findings, there could be more than 20 such gangs operating in Nairobi since the creation of Kenya’s first teenage only gang, Gaza, in 2014.
The founder of Mauki Family, who we only know by his alias ‘Kevo Lumidee’, was part of a four man gang gunned down by the SCPU in a botched robbery at the Galleria area of Karen, Nairobi.
Among his posts on Facebook was a picture of a pistol placed on a wad of Sh1,000 notes. The post received a lot of responses from money hungry youths who saw it as a symbol of success and power. The post is still there, acting as a reminder of what so many youths crave for when joining crime.
Other teenage gangs taking control of the city include Msako Empire, which is known to recruit girls and operates in Eastleigh, Pangani, Ngara and Huruma; Marisasi Family operating in estates along Mombasa road; Team Skate Park of the CBD; and Potmore Empire that patrols Kayole, Umoja and Donholm.
The others include Team Maswara (Ngong Road), Usiku Sacco (Dandora), Virusi Family (Jericho, Majengo), Kosovo Family (Ruaraka, Mathare) and Eastlands Big Bad Boyz.
All of these groups, we have established, have closed Facebook groups where they discuss crime. Some of them even have branded t-shirts as a marketing strategy. Those killed by the police are referred to as fallen soldiers like in one of the posts we have seen:
“On the roads to riches guess you got some road rage,” writes a member known as Mark Lolest euologising his comrade Chacha Hagen who was shot dead last year. “I know the last moment we shared wasn’t pleasant but it is what it is and you are forgiven. Shine on your way,” he says.
According to police, Chacha was among four suspects, who included a woman, shot dead at Saika area in July last year. Then Kayole OCPD Ali Nuno said officers on patrol saw a suspicious car parked on the road and when they challenged the occupants to identify themselves, they withdrew their guns.
Like Njoroge and Njoka, Chacha did not also come from a poor family. He had a degree from Kenyatta University and his family lives in Ruai. He was 23.
Yesterday, Nairobi police boss Japheth Koome admitted there is a concern about the rising cases of teenagers attracted to crime. “Yes there are teenage gangsters but on this issue, I would not like to comment,” he told Sunday Standard.
But a according to James Ndung’u, a security expert, a crackdown on the Mungiki sect after the 2007 post-election violence without dealing with the root cause of why gangs form is the genesis of the current problem. “Most of its members went underground, leaving a vacuum that had to be filled. That vacuum was filled by Gaza, which has made teenage gang life look appealing leading to springing up of all manner of gangs,” “ he says.
In just two years, Gaza, which was the first fully fledged teenage gang, has risen to be the most dangerous in the country, according to a recent report.
Of particular concern is the emerging hero worship by the youth of the crime underworld, which t psychologists say is a ticking time bomb.
Dr Philomena Ndambuki, a psychologist and director of mentorship at Kenyatta University, says the surge in teenage gang activity is a symptom of an underlying problem of falling family values in urban centres.
“Gangs have social structures and allegiance just like families. They give their members a sense of affiliation and connection, something that is fading in the basic family setting in today’s world,” she says.
But as one such suspected teenage gangster says on his Facebook page, “If it is not money that is making me better or happy I don’t have time to look for it.”