How Kenya’s ten houses concept is taming crime and terrorism
|April 27th, 2016|
|tags:||crime, Joseph Kaguthi, Kenya, Nyumba Kumi, police, security|
Every Wednesday evening Joel Kirui, a banker in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, joins other families in the South C estate, predominantly occupied by the country’s burgeoning middle class, for the weekly meeting. The meetings discuss any security situations over the previous weeks and any suspicious activities any dweller of the estate may have noticed. Comprising of 12 members, this group is one of the over 210,000 cluster groups that currently exist across the country under a new community policing model.
The groups are a product of government initiative dubbed ‘Nyumba Kumi’, Swahili for ten households, which seeks to create a rapport between citizens and law enforcers in fighting insecurity. It is hinged on the premise that citizens know their areas well and are therefore able to spot any suspicious or unusual activities which they then report to the police. Families living in the same area cluster themselves into groups, of usually ten households, with a view to knowing each other better and sharing information among themselves.
Introduced in 2013 the initiative has been credited by law enforcers and security industry players with foiling major crimes, nabbing notorious criminals and improving peace in areas where it has been rolled out. It has been borrowed from Tanzania where it has equally recorded impressive results.
“We meet every Wednesday. Most of us are working so the meetings happen in the evening after work. We review the security situation in our estate, discuss if there are any suspicious activities or persons and then prepare a report that we then share with the local police. It has been effective so far because we have managed to stop possible robberies and break ins in our apartments,” said Joel who is also the chairman of the group.
The National chairman of the initiative Mr. Joseph Kaguthi told journalists that in areas where it had been rolled out, crime had gone done by up to 40 per cent. “In our adjacent estate, the cluster group there noticed a group of suspicious young men who frequented a certain house during the day carrying bags. They reported to the police who on raiding the house found tens of weapons including rifles and ammunitions. They engaged the police in running battles before they were gunned down. It was later revealed that they were part of a gang that had been robbing motorists in Nairobi at gun point and even killed five people in a span of a month,” said Joel.
Such success has inspired the adoption of the initiative in the country’s fight against terrorism. Kenya has been grappling with an unprecedented rise in terror attacks targeting its civilian. Officials have blamed it on the country’s porous borders where Alshabab militants from neighbouring Somalia sneak into the country unnoticed to carry out the attacks while indoctrinating Kenyans, predominantly the youth, into the terror group.
The planning of the attacks is usually done in rented homes where bombs are assembled. But heightened campaign to remind Kenyans their civic duty to report crime when they spot it has prevented some of the deadliest attacks in its soil. Last year for example, numerous reports emerged of how residents tipped the police on suspicious activities in their neigbourhood across the country which led to police raids and foiling of major terror attacks. In one such instance police recovered 401 rolls of ammonium nitrate explosives in a bus that was headed to the coastal town of Mombasa following a tip off from the public. The explosives according to the police were capable of bringing down a 30 storeyed building.
“Nyumba Kumi has become one of the most effective tools of fighting mutating crime. In a country where the police to civilian ratio stands at 1:1000 it is difficult for police to be everywhere all the time and this is how criminals exploit the loopholes. By being the ears and eyes of the police the citizens have become key players in bringing crime down,” said Professor Petronilla Muoka a security analyst and a specialist in emerging crimes in the horn of Africa.
But the initiative hasn’t been without its challenged. In a country where the relationship between the police and citizenry has been strained due to mistrust, not everyone is keen on reporting crime to the law enforcers. Citizens accuse the police of complacency and at times colluding with criminals. In fact a study on youth crime in informal settlements in Nairobi conducted by Security Research and Information Centre (SRIC) indicated that victims of crimes in these areas preferred letting the matter die out rather than seeking help from the police. 42 per cent of those polled expressed no confidence in the administration of justice by the National Police Service.