Kidnapping perpetrated by family members and people well known to the victims make it harder for security organs to fight the crime.
A study by National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) shows kidnappings committed by a family member or an acquaintance as among the most prevalent forms of the crime besides those carried out by strangers and robbers.
Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Nairobi counties recorded a high number of incidents of all forms of kidnapping in the report published this month.
NCRC director and CEO Gerald Wandera said in the report that the global criminal phenomenon of the act is a threat to peace and security.
“In Kenya though, kidnapping has evolved from constituting a means of punishment used by warring gangsters, tribes, families in feuds or other groups to forming an actual professional end in itself,” Mr Wandera said.
“The kidnappers now target civilians chosen on account of their perceived wealth.”
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The study, carried out in more than 20 counties — including Nairobi, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Mandera, Lamu, Nakuru — sought to address the current trends, root causes, effects and solutions to kidnapping.
It cited revenge as the major socio-cultural motive for kidnappings, and ransom payment the main economic drive for the crime.
Overcoming and reducing political rivalry was also pointed out as a motive, especially during the party nominations and election campaigns.
Murang’a had the largest number of kidnappings by a stranger, followed by Kirinyaga and Migori, while those by acquaintances were most prevalent in Kirinyaga, followed by Murang’a and Nyeri.
Nyeri also had the most cases of kidnappings by people who force the victim to withdraw money from an ATM, closely followed by Nairobi and Murang’a.
The Internet plays a big role in aiding kidnappers to execute the crime, with most of the virtual criminals being in Nairobi, Nyeri and Kirinyaga.
“The factors encouraging kidnappings in Kenya include unemployment, especially among the youth, high incidence of poverty, existence of gangs and militia, retrogressive cultural practices and instability and conflicts in some regions,” NCRC said in the report.
PEOPLE AT RISK
The centre also blamed inefficiency and corruption among some members of the security system, marginalisation and proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons for the prevalence of the transnational crime.
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Vulnerable groups include children under the age of 18, females, members of wealthy families, business people, as well as government officials and tourists.
“Kidnappers are mainly male youth aged 18-35 years who are not averagely stable economically and members of criminal gangs and militia,” the report, which also pointed a finger at romantic partners, said.