We ignored Agenda Four and must now contend with resurgent ethnic gangs


Prof. Constantine Nyamboga

Globally, there is overwhelming evidence of the existence of gangs, many of which – particularly those found in Kenya – are ethnic-based. A gang, according to Miller and Klein (2011), is an organised group with a recognised leader, whose activities are either criminal or, at the very least, threatening to the community.

From the Italian Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia, to locally famous gangs such Sungu Sungu, Taliban, Mungiki, Siafu and Kamjeshi, the existence of deadly gangs is at alarming levels. More continue to emerge despite various interventions by government. For instance, Kenya established a legal framework with the legislation of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act in 2010, which has done little to alleviate the problem.

The question of why dangerous gangs continue to flourish despite existing mechanisms can be explained in a number of ways. Among the inhibiting factors to the success of the said mechanisms are youth unemployment, poverty, corruption, negative ethnicity, poor leadership and governance, which have greatly contributed to youth radicalisation, which is a breeding ground for terrorism. Recently, Kenya has – and continues to be – brought to terms with some of the worst acts of terrorism. The perpetrators in many of those cases are youthful, unemployed Kenyans.

51per cent of Kenya’s population is made up of people aged between 15 and 54; of these, 70pc are those between the ages of 15 and 35 (this represents two thirds of the workforce), according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNEP (2013). Accordingly, the demand for employment has been increasing in such levels that both the public and private sectors have been unable to cope.

Although the objective of the Economic pillar in Kenya’s Vision 2030 is to maintain and sustain an economic growth of 10pc per annum for 25 years, the current growth rate of about 6pc is far from adequate to guarantee the vision. With the 2017 general election beckoning, the dream of realising the much-coveted medium-income status by 2030 is a mirage. As a result, the negative effects of unemployment seem to be here to stay.

According to a recent World Bank report, at least 46pc of Kenyans live below the poverty line meaning that they earn less than one dollar a day. Furthermore, Kenya was ranked 145th among 186 countries in terms of Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Programme last year. The index considers countries in terms of standards of living, life expectancy and educational attainment. These facts exacerbate the fear and concern about the resurgence of ethnic gangs.

Corruption is described as a cancer that’s slowly wasting the country. Kenya is reported as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. A report by Transparency International provides insight as to why it is difficult for the majority of the population to escape poverty in Kenya given the level of misuse of public finance by government. Bribery, fraud and tribal favouritism are common within all levels of government, which hampers attempts to improve basic living conditions. For example, although instituted reforms have inspired some confidence among Kenyans, and brought additional foreign investment, corruption is still rife within the system.

Koigi wa Wamwere…

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  1. Re: We ignored Agenda Four and must now contend with resurgent ethnic gangs

    You miss the most important factor in the spread and proliferation of gangs – technological development and with the, easy means of communication. This is the single most import factor as evidenced gang growth in conjunction with technological development. To be effective, gang must be able to communicate effectively. The easier this becomes, the more rapidly they spread their message and the more effective they can be.


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