Police have started a crackdown on drugs and criminal gangs in the notorious neighbourhood of Old Town in Mombasa.
The crackdown will be extended to Majengo, Likoni, Kisauni and other crime and drug hotspots.
Old Town is the first stage in cleaning Mombasa, according to security personnel.
Apart from improving security, the operations will boost tourism. This follows deliberations by tourism stakeholders and CS Najib Balala at Neptune Hotels in Diani on January 31. Old Town is a world-class destination frequented by international tourists.
It hosts the famous Fort Jesus, declared a World Heritage site by Unesco in 2011.
However, the area, also referred to as Kibokoni, developed a bad reputation after a series of attacks on tourists between 2013-14.
Ever since, the juvenile criminal gangs and terror cells have found refuge in the area.
Old Town is located on the South-East side of the Mombasa Island and covers 180 acres.
It is made of narrow streets and alleys, with building designs influenced by Mombasa’s trade culture.
Portuguese and Islamic architecture of the 18th century dominates.
The area has become a rich cultural point.
The community is a mixture of communities including Arabs, Asians, Swahilis and the Portuguese who stayed behind after completing construction of Fort Jesus in 1596.
All this was, however, threatened by the rise of crime perpetuated by blood-thirsty youth, who attacked and killed people for fun.
The tourism stakeholders called for the cleanup of Old Town to restore it to its former glory and improve tourism.
“We have announced war against drug peddling. We will only rest when we see our children are safe,” Mombasa county police commander Johnston Ipara told the Star on Friday.
He said the operations will be conducted in a different style, with emphasis on target swoops that are effective and efficient.
The police’s new approach in fighting crime in Mombasa will reduce killings and criminals arrested, police sources say.
A meeting in mid-last month in Mombasa between Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and civil society organisations from the Coast discussed ways to end extrajudicial killings.
However, a week after the meeting, 25-year-old Shee Hassan was gunned down in Barsheba, Kisauni subcounty. This caused uproar among human rights activists.
Last Thursday, police raided one a house with three members of the Temeke criminal gang.
Two suspected gang members were arrested.
Despite the area’s proximity to the Central police station and deputy county commissioner’s office, members of criminal gang Temeke have assumed supremacy ending many lives, maiming residents and stealing property worth thousands of shillings.
However, police charged them in court on Friday, leading to praises from the civil society, including Haki Africa, which has been vocal against extrajudicial killings.
“This is the way to go. We are tired of hearing cases of police shooting and killing suspects. That is extrajudicial killing and it does not help,” Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said.
Ipara said they are only interested in getting rid of drug traffickers and insecurity in Mombasa.
Drug abuse is one of the factors cited as the cause of insecurity.
killing of suspects
Police are also keen on improving their relationship with human rights groups, with whom they have been at loggerheads over killing of suspects.
In 2013, police woefully failed to detect the alarming drug abuse dimension and increased growth of drug addicts, which gave rise to criminals.
In July 2014, the gangs shot dead a German tourist and critically injured a Ugandan colleague on Kuze Road. This was two weeks after a Russian tourist was murdered by gunmen on Kitui treet.
A month after the gangs robbed and killed a student and a woman between March and April in 2017, security agencies released 24 names and photographs of knife-wielding juvenile criminal gang members. They were linked to a series of robberies and cases of stabbing, especially in Old Town.
Many have since been felled by police bullets.
Two weeks ago, a notorious criminal in Old Town known as ‘Ahmed’ alias ‘Ameto’ was caught on CCTV camera robbing the public along Makarada Road. He is on police wanted list.
Ahmed’s accomplice Shaffi Salim Shaffi, alias ‘Shafi Wa Fire, was killed by police on January 2 in Memon, Mwembe Tayari.
Residents are upbeat, that the renewed crackdown may finally rid Old Town of criminals and gangs.