26 May 2019

Kenya: Police Raise Red Flag As More Women Join Criminal Gangs

The recent arrest of three high-profile women suspected to be the masterminds of armed burglary in Nairobi's upmarket estates is seen as a major breakthrough in a trend that has proved to be a headache to security agencies.

It also raises concern over the increasing involvement of women in crime.

JUMPING BAIL

The three women, identified as Lavender Akinyi Ogilo, 33, Elizabeth Akinyi Abuto and Quinter Adhiambo Ong'ino, were arrested by detectives drawn from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) after they allegedly conducted a robbery in Kitengela.

This came after last month's arrest of Margaret Waithera Kamande, who had an international warrant against her for burglary.

In the latest arrest, the three women were found with hundreds of master keys, assorted tools believed to be used in burglary, fake number plates, masking tapes and a safe.

Two motor vehicles, a Toyota Prado and a Nissan Navara, both fitted with fake number plates, were also recovered from the trio.

DCI boss George Kinoti, in a statement, said that Lavender and Elizabeth had warrants of arrest against them for jumping bail.

"They also have pending cases in court in connection with several offences of burglary, house breaking and stealing in Kilimani.

Further investigations are ongoing before they are arraigned and charged in court," said Mr Kinoti.

When Lavender was arrested in April last year, Mr Kinoti described the mother of one as "dangerous and operates with armed gangsters who are still at large."

Detectives who spoke to Sunday Nation blamed the Judiciary for consistently releasing Lavender and her accomplices on bail, enabling her to continue engaging in robbery.

When she was arrested last year, Lavender was released on a Sh1.2 million bond with an alternative bond of Sh2.1 million to cover the counts she faced.

The prosecution had requested for more time to consolidate 12 other complaints filed against her in various police stations.

SERIES OF ROBBERIES

"She has always been released by the courts and we still arrest her committing the same crimes. This week's arrest is the third one in a period of one year and the sixth in the past four years," a detective privy to the investigations told Sunday Nation.

Lavender has in the past been captured by various CCTV footages within Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Muthaiga and Dagoretti while committing burglaries.

On March 23 last year, she was among robbers who were caught on CCTV footage conducting a burglary at Cullinun Apartments on Nyangumi Road.

A few days later, her accomplices identified as Tolbert Odhiambo and Don Ouma were arraigned in court.

Mr Odhiambo was in February this year abducted by four armed gunmen and, to date, he has never been seen, according to his family.

Early this month, detectives acting on a tip-off arrested Margaret Waithera Kamande who has been linked to a series of burglaries in Kenya and other countries in the region, including South Africa.

In a statement, the DCI said that Waithera was also wanted by Interpol after she jumped bail in Zimbabwe where she was involved in a series of robberies.

Ms Waithera was arrested in Tanzania and arraigned in a Zimbabwe court but got bail and sneaked back into Kenya.

"She is also wanted by Interpol, Zimbabwe and other East African countries after she jumped bail, which was granted by a Zimbabwean court, in offences related to burglary and stealing. She had been on the run until her arrest," the DCI said in a statement.

ISLAMIC STATE

And on Thursday, two women -- Leah Muhonja Muyali, 47, and her daughter, Charlotte Muhonja Muyali, 23, were arrested by detectives after they kidnapped a minor and were demanding Sh3 million to release him.

Leah is said to have worked in cahoots with a woman who is yet to be arrested to kidnap the boy from their Loresho home and hide him at her daughter's rented house in Kawangware.

On April 16, the US listed a woman who has several times been linked to terrorism-related activities in Kenya as one of seven individuals in the world who finance the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis).

The US further slapped sanctions on 33-year-old Halima Adan Ali, whom it describes as "an Islamic State facilitator based in Kenya with establishments of financial facilitation network that operated in Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Eastern Africa".

"Halima Adan Ali (Halima) was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to, or in support of, ISIS," read a statement by the department.

According to the US government, Ms Ali, over the past two years, has received up to Sh15 million from various countries around the world.

PRETTIEST THUG

Ms Ali is equally facing a number of cases related to terrorism in the country. She has been detained at Lang'ata Women's Prison and also spent more than a year at Shimo la Tewa Prison.

In 2017, the death of Claire Njoki, aka Clea Adi Vybz, who was described as Nairobi's prettiest thug, shocked Kenyans.

Police claimed that she had been part of four armed robbers who were involved in a series of crimes in Eastlands area.

Three weeks after her death, another woman who police said was her friend, Marsha Minaj, was also killed.

Police spokesperson Charles Owino says there is an upsurge in the number of women involved in crime and blames it on changes in the way of living.

"Generally, we have a shift in the way of living. The social structure of society has really changed and we now have many women who are independent, which has seen an upsurge in those who join crime," he said.

A government survey released last year showed that the number of women who have turned to crime had increased, compared with 2017, and currently stands at 15,221.

According to the 2019 "Economic Survey", the number was a 9.8 per cent increase, compared with 2017 -- and that Kiambu, Nairobi and Meru counties recorded the highest numbers.

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