The Ex-Con, Illegal Guns And The Fear Of Kenya’s Police

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As Kenya struggles with rising violent crime, reports follows one former criminal as he tries to persuade men to turn in their illegal firearms, one gun at a time.

 

“The worst thing I ever did was to kill. I killed a man,” the young man says after agreeing to be filmed on condition of anonymity.
“I did not feel anything, because I was high on drugs. I felt like I had killed a fly.”
Samuel, which is not his real name, is in Kisumu on the edge of Lake Victoria in the west of Kenya, to meet King Kafu, a former convict who now helps people get away from crime.

He is visibly nervous. He has an AK47 in a hidden location that he now wants to hand in to the police.
Asked why, he says: “A day will come when my family won’t have anything to eat. They will get hurt eventually.
“If I go and mess around, and then get shot, no-one will be there to take care of my family. So I decided, from my heart, let me return this thing.”

Figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show violent robberies increased by almost 20% last year.
Illegal firearms are smuggled into the country through its porous borders, making Kenya’s civilian possession of weapons unrivalled in East Africa, according to the Institute of Security Studies.

Kenya neighbours both Somalia and South Sudan, which have both been wracked by civil wars for decades.
The latest figures from the Small Arms Survey, which tracks global weapons trends, suggest there are some 750,000 firearms in civilian hands in Kenya. That is more than the army and police combined.

Kafu acts as a middleman between people who want to hand in their guns and the police.

He was 15 when he first got into crime. It started with snatching people’s bags, but then he moved on to armed robberies.
In 2003, he was sentenced to four years in prison for robbery.

Samuel had contacted him on Instagram asking for help. Kafu spoke to the local police in Kisumu and they agreed to accept Samuel’s gun, promising he would not be investigated in line with a well-established amnesty programme.

But when it was time to meet up again with the AK47, Samuel did not show up.
Kafu, now 40, is a presenter on Ghetto Radio, a station popular among young people in the slum areas of the capital, Nairobi, and uses his platform to speak out against gun violence.
“Upon my release, I discovered many of my friends who were involved in crime had met tragic ends, most of them dying as a result of their criminal lifestyles,” he says.

It was this that made him turn his life around.
“No-one is born a thief. But even if the youths don’t have work, we are telling them that crime is not good. People should return their illegal guns to the government,” he says.
In the last 20 years the Kenyan government has used amnesties as a way of controlling gun crime, promising immunity to those who surrender their weapons.

Thousands of guns have been handed in to the authorities. But this is a tiny fraction of the illegal firearms in circulation.

Kafu called the local police chief to reassure the man about his safety and a few days later they went to the police station together with the gun.
The officer checked the serial number on the weapon and it had a KP mark which is short for Kenyan Police.
At a police press conference announcing the return of the weapon, Kafu made a public statement to make sure the police repeated their commitment to keeping these men safe.

“I want the government to be clear with the youth. When they return these things, will they be disappeared or supported? I am asking the government to cooperate. These youths want to be shown some love.”
This alone will not stop violent gun crime in Kenya, but Kafu says it’s a start. Criminals trust him, he says, and hopes he can encourage more people to surrender their weapons without fear of retribution.

 

BBC/Jide Johnson.

 

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