Targeting jobless won’t fix Kenya’s organised crime

August 25, 2016

Declaring jobless youths to be a criminal organisation is buffoonery.It is common sense that such declarations on the basis that rely on criminal intelligence denies procedural fairness to those accused to be criminals by mere fact that they are jobless. Whether information constitutes criminal intelligence or not, it must be determined in a special closed hearing and if the court does declare information to be criminal intelligence, any part of the substantive application to have the organisation declared criminal which involves that intelligence, must also be heard in a closed hearing. The consequence of all this is that the criminal intelligence is withheld from those who would wish to defend themselves against it.Thats why am shattered with latest plans by Kenyan authorities in tackling crime. Such decisions are especially significant in the wake of government’s plans that intends to target organised crime groups. The Kenyan government intends to bring in a raft of laws, including unexplained wealth laws, reforms to combat the illegal firearms market, and, relevantly and unfortunately, control orders.Even though control orders, which are used to limit the activities of members of organisations declared to be criminal, have already been successfully used against suspected terrorists, such decision will no doubt be encouraging for the government and its plan to use the same tool to spearhead its attack on organised crime.It is worrying, however, that reactions to such decision have again confirmed that serious organised crime often appears to be synonymous with jobless youths. In the wake of the proposals, this means that police in Kenya can wage the fight against criminal gangs especially people who deal in drugs, people who are involved in prostitution and organised criminal matters.What Police said appeared to confuse who the legislation is intended to fight and i wonder whether it target organised crime, or just gangs? Because while some gangs might engage in organised crime, the two are not exactly one and the same, and the organised crime threat is not limited to gangs.

Kenya police comments were not the first time I’ve seen a conflation of gangs and organised crime generally in Africa. Admittedly, anyone who’s keenly followed Africa for past decade will know that gangs tend to get the lion’s share of the organised crime limelight in Africa, mainly because of their propensity to engage in public displays of violence.But the reality is that gangs are not the only or necessarily the most dangerous organised crime groups operating in Kenya or African countries. This was proven in 2011, when a shipment of ecstasy tablets to Mombasa from Asia was seized, hidden in cans and with an estimated street value of $90 million. There is no doubt that organised crime deserves punishment. Unfortunately, however, Kenya legislation has not served the country well to this point. It poses obstacles to extradition and therefore also to international efforts to fight organised crime, and fails to deter organised crime groups of foreign origin from setting up camp in Mombasa and Nairobi.The transnational spread of organised crime groups of Kenyan origin, Kenya doesn’t export its mafias rather, countries with inadequate organised crime legislation, attract it.The fact that the Kenyan government has finally decided to act on organised crime does not guarantee the approach will work.There is a risk that the dominance of gangs in Kenya’s organised crime discourse could lead to the international element of the threat being overlooked.Another threat to the development of optimal legislation to tackle organised crime relates to timing. Legislation that emerges just before the election campaigns, as the proposed initiatives look to have done, given that the problem of organised crime did not suddenly emerge now, is unlikely to produce the best solutions.The Kenyan government would do well to engage in some serious evaluation before deciding on the right laws to fight organised crime.But before this,Kenya must determine exactly where the organised crime threat is coming from. If Kenya is to be serious about addressing crime, it need to get over the idea that organised crime gangs and take proper account of the other organised crime groups operating within its borders.

Contador Harrison