22 April 2018

Kenya: Why More Kenyan Women Are Joining Armed Crime

On March 13 this year, detectives found a blood-spattered knife on the floor of a city matatu, and as they brushed and dusted it for fingerprints, victims of the robbery wreathed in pain from stab wounds.

A few minutes earlier, as the driver was trying to beat the clock that chilly morning, an armed gang of seven had pounced on the 33 passengers from Lucky Summer estate as they headed to the Nairobi Central Business District.

The victims recounted at the Ruaraka police station how the gang, comprising five men and two women who were acting as the leaders, had boarded the matatu, disguised as passengers and took vantage positions.

"One of the women sat next to me on one of the front seats. Suddenly she unzipped her bag, stood up and shouted; 'Your life or property', as the rest of the gang stood and started frisking passengers and robbing them of their valuables. She had a gun which she was menacingly brandishing at the terrified passengers," one of the victims, Yvette, said.

According to Yvette, the other gang members were armed with knives and did not hesitate to stab any passenger who hesitated in handing over their belongings or provoked them.

GANG LEADER

When the gang was done, they left in a hurry, the gang leader shooting in the air, just to remind her victims that her's was not a toy but a deadly firearm. Police recovered two spent cartridges from the scene. More pedestrians later reported that they had been stabbed and robbed by the same gang.

Yvette was too terrified to have eye contact with the woman gangster but she remembers that she had a huge snake and anchor tattoo on her right arm, just above the wrist.

Just a week before the incident, a Kileleshwa resident made a complaint that a gang of three armed men and two women had broken into her house and taken her valuables including a Ceska pistol loaded with six rounds of ammunition.

Early this month, police arrested a suspected leader of an all-female gang in connection with several burglaries in Muthaiga, Lavington and Kileleshwa.

The Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said Ms Lavender Akinyi Ogilo was arrested after police raided her house in Ruaka. Police said the gang of five has been terrorising residents for the last three years.

"She is dangerous and operates with armed gangsters who are still at large," a police statement read.

She is facing charges in court.

Other than robbery with violence and burglarly, women have also joined the big league of crime that often transcends national boundaries: terrorism.

SHOT DEAD

In September 2016, three robed women tricked their way into Mombasa Central police station where they stabbed one officer and set fire to the building using a petrol bomb before they were shot dead.

Investigations revealed that one of the attackers, identified as 23 year old Fatma Omar, had just sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination at a girls' day school in Mombasa.

The women, according to detectives, had been dropped at the entrance to the station where they staged a false theft report as a cover-up to detonating the explosives. Since then several other women have been linked to terrorism, carjacking, assault, drugs peddling and fraud.

National Police Service Director of Communications, Charles Owino, says the number of women getting involved in big crime is on the rise, attributing this trend to cultural dynamics, including the fact that more women are becoming sole breadwinners and that there is more influence from peers to lead an opulent lifestyle.

"Most of the women are being used by organised criminal gangs including terrorist groups for intelligence gathering, carrying weapons, cooking for them in their hideouts, boosting their morale and luring their targets to their traps. Some women are however involved in physical fighting like the women who raided the Mombasa police station a few months ago," Mr Owino said.

The reason most of the crimes conducted by women gangsters succeed, he said, is because women often appear less suspicious than men and carrying weapons such as guns in their handbags and under their jackets is much easier for them.

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