UNSUSPECTED CONDUITS

How criminals smuggle guns and drugs into the country

They dismantle guns and hide them and drugs in car interiors or use people authorities wouldn't suspect as well as livestock

In Summary

• Guns and drugs are smuggled into slums and sold them for hundreds of thousands  

• Some police are suspected to be complicit, but regional police boss says such are few

Njiru subcounty police boss Henry Kosgei (R) greets a police officer injured by armed thugs at Nairobi West Hospital, where he was admitted after shooting his attackers dead at Kayole Junction
Njiru subcounty police boss Henry Kosgei (R) greets a police officer injured by armed thugs at Nairobi West Hospital, where he was admitted after shooting his attackers dead at Kayole Junction
Image: GEORGE OWITI

Schoolchildren, young boys and attractive women, commonly known as ‘slay queens’, are being used by criminals to import firearms.

They are not suspected by security agents, making them an ideal conduit, multiple security sources have said.

Investigations by the Star established that the weapons, which come in disparate parts before being assembled, range from small guns to big ones like AK47.

They are sold for between Sh20,000 and Sh200,000 after gaining access into the country, depending on the type, client and the market at that time.

 

The Star spoke to police, reformed criminals, residents and provincial administrators to unravel the workings of the smugglers, who mostly operate in the shadows of slums.

“Crime is rife in these slums,” an administrator in Dandora slum told the Star. "You will not believe it but slay queens are involved in crime. They are part of the criminal racket of firearms and drug peddling in Nairobi and its environs."

According to the sources, whose names are withheld to protect their identities, most firearms of all sizes and types are dismantled before they are smuggled into the country.

Some of the strategies used by the criminals to sneak in the firearms include: inserting them in livestock’s’ bodies through their anus, dismantling and transporting parts separately together with other items like metals, hiding them in animals’ hides and skins, or better still, hiding them in modified vehicle parts, like beneath the floors.

On the other hand, drugs gain their entry through vehicles’ modifications. Vehicle bumpers are removed and drugs such as bhang and heroin stashed in them before they are returned.

Also, other vehicle parts, such as floors, are extended to have secret spaces for hiding such illicit goods.

The sources said some people deflate the tyres of their vehicles, stash drugs between the tyres and tubes, before refilling and then transporting the goods.

 
 
 
 

Some drug peddlers swallow the drugs to get through manned borders and police roadblocks.

You will not believe it but slay queens are involved in crime. They are part of the criminal racket of firearms and drug peddling in Nairobi and its environs
Administrator in Dandora

SOURCES AND DESTINATIONS

Ethiopia, Tanzania, Southern Sudan and Somalia were mentioned as some of the countries where firearms are smuggled from.

The estates termed as entry points of smuggled firearms and illicit drugs include Dandora, Molem, Kayole, Korogocho and Mathare, all in Nairobi, and Kiandutu slum in Thika, Kiambu county.

Gangsters train recruits on shooting bullets at Maila Saba in Dandora slum, sources said.

A visit to Dandora slum in Nairobi yielded lots of narrations on how the whole business of firearms goes on within the slum and its neighbouring hoods.

One source told this writer the experience he went through in Dandora slum when he accompanied some police officers to recover an AK 47 from a reformed criminal, who volunteered to surrender it to the authorities.

“It was a frightening experience when a stranger led us to a dingy mabati house in the slum. However, you could not believe you were in a slum while inside the single room house,” he said.

“The room was well pimped and furnished with expensive sofa sets and a bed on one side, with skimpily dressed light-skinned women lounging everywhere, while sipping expensive alcohol that was placed on the table. They were partying and enjoying life.”

The source said the women disagreed at some point over the firearm, which was owned by one of their male partners. Some did not want it surrendered to the authorities.

“I heard them argue: 'How do we trust that these people will not betray us? Let’s shoot all of them',” he said.

They moved out of the house and talked for about 10 minutes, eventually agreeing that the rifle be surrendered.

A reformed woman in Korogocho confessed to this reporter that she and some of her friends have resorted to commercial sex work for a living.

“We have joined the ‘Usiku Sacco’ to survive. We operate between Nairobi town and Dandora slum,” she said.

Jane* (not her real name) said it was, however, not a big deal to rob ‘silly’ clients.

“We spice some of our clients’ drinks with ‘mchele’ before robbing them. We don’t use firearms, though,” she said.

POLICE INVOLVEMENT

A source accused rogue police of being complicit to firearm and illicit drug smuggling into the country.

She said it was dubious for security agents in the city, especially where crime is on the rise, not to be aware of the criminals’ operations.

“We are wondering how comes some of the known notorious members of gangs operating in the city have never been arrested. Most disappear only to reappear whenever crackdowns have gone down,” the source said.

Dandora residents who spoke to this writer said there were lots of armed criminals operating at the dumpsite.

They said although the gangs were independent, most of them were used by politicians and city tycoons involved in shady businesses around the country.

“There are some parts of the Dandora dumpsite where you can’t access unless accompanied by an insider. Those ‘boys’ are armed and dangerous,” the resident said.

The illicit firearms, according to multiple sources, are hidden at the dumpsite and are mostly used in other parts of the city.

Though the dumpsite poses a major threat to the slum, a local provincial administrator said the youths are reforming with time.

He said the community policing concept has started bearing fruits, with some youths turning to alternative means of livelihoods, such as boda boda operations and menial jobs.

Residents scavenge at Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi.
Residents scavenge at Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi.
Image: COURTESY

GUN SURRENDERING

On the ‘surrender guns’ project that was once supported by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, one of the personalities involved in the initiative said it was not very successful.

The source said most of the youth who wish to reform shy away from surrendering their illegal firearms for fear of the unknown.

“There is lots of stigmatisation. The strategy that once worked apparently seems to have hit a dead-end,” he said.

Other sources blamed misgivings on the amnesty as some of those who surrendered their guns in the past had “gone missing”.

“There are suspicions that some of the youths who surrendered their firearms were eliminated by security agencies. This has scared those willing to reform in most city slums,” a source said.

Local leaders said education is one of the strategies they are using to rid the city of crime.

Kasarani MP Mercy Gakuya said they are determined to ensure 100 per cent transition to secondary schools.

She said this has been realised in Nairobi, with Kasarani constituency leading in the number of children enrolled in schools.

She said with education, the level of crime rates in Nairobi will go down since youths will be kept in school, thereby minimising their involvement in crime.

“With education, residents are able to secure jobs and legitimately earn their livelihoods,” Gakuya said.

The legislator said apart from bursaries, she is using her personal finances and resources to educate needy children from the constituency.

“Using provincial administrators like chiefs and assistant county commissioners, we ensure that children who miss chances in the schools they were called to get admitted locally. We fund their education with a lot of emotions,” she said.

Nairobi regional police boss Philip Ndolo said the police are committed to ridding the city of criminals and drugs.

Ndolo said as much as there could be claims about rogue officers colluding with criminals, the numbers are negligible. He said most cops are professional and up to the task.

He said as a police service, they will not spare any criminals operating in the city.

“We will not relent in the fight against drugs and criminals. Those involved in illicit businesses must find other legitimate ways of earning a living,” Ndolo said.

Edited by T Jalio