On May 9, an unprecedented meeting of rival gangs from Mvita constituency’s Old Town and Majengo areas was called at the Koblenz Hall in Mombasa.
The meeting was meant to iron out differences between the Temeke (TMK) gang from Old Town and Mawayo and Ropa gangs from Majengo.
It was the culmination of efforts from area leaders in search of a ceasefire. The included Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, Mombasa county commissioner Evans Achoki and the Kenya Red Cross Society.
"I feel sad when I see us fighting with machetes. Are we in jihad practised by the prophets?" the Temeke gang leader asked.
His Mawayo gang counterpart said, “My fellow youth, we have a long sweet life ahead of us. Let us promote peace.”
The two leaders said radicalisation, drug abuse and unemployment are the major factors that push youth into gangs.
MP Nassir says creating an environment of love is key to reforming juvenile gang members willing to change their lives for the better.
"That is why we have programmes like Skills Mitaani, which aims to nurture one’s skills to facilitate employment," he says.
In Kisauni, MP Ali Mbogo has put much focus on education, saying education is the key to opening many opportunities, and lack of it creates the problems in the first place. Mbogo has been promoting education through various initiatives, including bursaries.
Commissioner Achoki says security personnel are keen to help the youth live better lives. But the problem, he says, is the mistrust the society has towards the police service.
"This is changing, though. More and more cooperation is being seen between the police and members of the public," he told a forum last month on seeking ways of cooperation and countering violent extremism.
Likoni activist Mwanahamisi Hassan says involving gang members before starting any project or programme for them is the most important thing that many organisations fail to do.
“It is important to consult the target group for any programme. Using village elders, police or civil society alone is counter-productive,” she says.
Social and economic programmes to keep those willing to reform busy are important. Mwanahamisi has helped 15 former juvenile gang members reform and has engaged them in a poultry farming business that keeps them busy and away from crime.
"Equally important is a monitoring system so that those engaged in socio-economic activities continue on the right path," Mwanahamisi says.
Reformed gang member Ali Said, alias Tip The Boss, has opened his own organisation, called ‘Likoni First Response Team’, where he has helped reform about 50 former juvenile gang members, six of whom work for his organisation. Of the six, two are former members of Wajukuu wa Bibi gang.
The Boss says CSOs that tried coming up with reform programmes for the juvenile gang members started on the wrong footing. “They started by calling them for meetings after which they would give them some allowance like Sh200, Sh500 or Sh1,000,” he says.
"Eventually, the meetings were always well attended but only because of the money. Once the money started drying up, the attendance also started dropping. In the end, all the programmes failed."