Cultism or sexual assault escalated? Mombasa County women and girls face breast suckling thugs
Age of committing criminal violence including sexual is no longer restricted to adults.
In the coastal county of Mombasa, young boys have been sexually harassing and sexually abusing women and girls. Members of one of the over 40 gangs in the county, among them being the Wakali Kwanza, have been doing what could be termed as abomination by undressing women in broad daylight, caressing them and finally sucking their breasts in a move that is causing jitters among girls and women.
Going by these incidents, word around town is that not only is the group interested in stealing but they could be involved in cult like activities which require them to fondle women in public as a ritual.
However, what seems to be worrying is that the boys aged between nine and 18 mainly target middle aged women who could easily be their mothers, girls have not been spared either.
A recent bizarre incident left many with their mouths agape when members of a gang ambushed a woman in her mid-30s at Soko Mjinga area of Kisauni. They undressed her before suckling her breasts in full view of everybody and disappeared with her belongings.
This incident, condemned by many, has left people wondering the motive behind the act and the extent the gangs are planning to go to achieve their malicious goals.
Recently, three men were slashed and robbed in the wee hours of the morning at the Mtopanga bus stage while waiting to board a matatu to Kongowea market while their female counterparts had their dresses torn and breasts suckled. Witnesses indicate that members of the Wakali Kwanza gang, who were in a group of 15, were responsible for the injuries.
A few days later, similar incidents were repeated inside a matatu before the panga wielding boys walked away casually as if nothing was amiss.
Another victim, who for security reasons prefers to be called Lady F, says she was accosted by the group at Sunlight area of Barsheba.
“I had just alighted from a motorcycle and was picking some items from a shop. As I was about to sit on the awaiting boda boda, a group approached me and rudely inquired what I was doing before telling me to give them my handbag,” says Lady F.
She stated that were it not for the cyclist who shouted at her to stop engaging the group before igniting his motorcycle, the group which was beginning to round them up could have sexually harassed her.
The group whose operations extend to Majengo, Old Town, Bakarani, Mlaleo, Brasheba and Mtopanga are feared by residents who claim they are so influential and have a wide network of informers within the area such nobody can talk about them openly. They are only discussed in hushed tones for fear that they could retaliate.
It is being said that security detail in Mombasa is also scared of the gang which some claim has two splinter groups called ‘Wakali Wao’ and ‘Wakali Kwanza’.
Mombasa County Executive in charge of Youth, Gender, Sports and Social Services Mohamed Abbas termed the incidents as unfortunate.
Planning and execution
Abbas says the County government is working closely with security apparatus to bring to book all those involved in planning and execution of the heinous activities.
“We are concerned that such acts are taking place with our mothers and sisters suffering. Let me assure you that the County government is working tirelessly to eliminate this gang,” Abbas reiterated.
However, the challenge remains on the extent the County government can go because since the country has two levels of government, security function is with the national government.
Abbass, however, called out to those who had been sexually assaulted by the gang to seek treatment and psycho-social support services at the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH).
On his side, Nelson Marwa, who is the Coast Regional Commandant and known for his tough talk, is convinced the group is using such tactics to hide its politically instigated motives.
Marwa claims the group is funded by an influential politician and is being trained and prepared to spark violence in the next General Election.
“These are militias gangs that are being prepared to disrupt peace and intimidate people in 2017 but they will be in for a rude shock,” said Marwa. He noted that the form of sexual assault that was being exhibited by the gang was weird.
Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) Organizing Secretary Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa termed the incidents as indecent saying it was not only against the law but also religious teachings to undress and harass a woman.
Citing another incident which happened in Majengo recently, where some youth after attending a burial ceremony indiscriminately slashed residents leaving women and children scampering for safety, Khalifa said the region was slowly turning into a state of anarchy with women bearing the brunt of the violence.
“We can’t allow Mombasa to be ruled by some rogue youth who do not understand or value the sanctity of life,” said Khalifa, adding that “action must be taken immediately”.
Collaborate with police
He appealed to parents to collaborate with security personnel and locate the whereabouts of their children who continue to terrorize county residents at the expense of economic growth.
“These boys are armed with knives, pangas (Swahili for machetes) and even walk around with dogs. For how long will we continue to tolerate these heinous acts?” asked Khalifa.
Meanwhile, Julius Ogogoh of the Commission for Human Rights and Justice condemned the act saying he had received several reports from victims.
However, Ogogoh noted that prosecuting perpetrators was turning out to be a Herculean task since the victims fear they could be pursued thereafter by other gang members.
“Most claim to know the suspects but since most of them live in the same neighbourhood, they receive threats and opt to remain quiet,” he said.