Sungu Sungu: Abagusii self-help group or gang of cold blooded murderers?
6 months ago, 30 Dec 13:29
Sungu Sungu, a self-styled vigilante group, is despised and loved in equal measure among the Abagusii. But their involvement in arrests, investigations, detaining suspects in illegal holding cells and passing of judgements in Kangaroo courts is now raising eyebrows. The group began arbitrating cases involving debtors, land disputes, adultery and family conflicts, punishing witches and fixing political and business competitors in the region, almost 10 years ago. For five years, they have been operating under the guise of community policing committees. Youth from poor and lowly educated families are particularly attracted to Sungu Sungu as it offers them money and higher socio-economic status. In 2016, hundreds of Suneka residents thronged the Kisii-Suneka road in a protest march against alleged resurgence of the outlawed Sungu Sungu gang. The angry residents claimed the outlawed gang was financed by a local politician to upstage a genuine community policing group for political reasons. A majority of local residents fear talking about the group’s activities. The group is said to operate a chain of boda boda businesses in Kisii town. They also allegedly own a number of brothels that have led to an upsurge of twilight girls along the streets of Kisii town, sources claim. While in Kisii, Independent Police Oversight Authority board member Tom Kagwe said they were investigating claims that a vigilante group was involved in a number of crimes in Kisii and Nyamira counties. Kagwe said the current community policing committees in the region were not legally constituted and that the operations of such organisations should be based on a constitutionally accepted mandate. In 2011, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights released a report titled Sungu Sungu: Merchants of Terror and Death in Kisii, which indicated that those who purport to be acting as security providers under the community policing initiative have clearly over-stepped their mandate. The report stated that there were assaults perpetrated by those purporting to be members of community policing. Several claims were made involving instances in which suspects were severely beaten and injured. The commission called for a review of the existing community policing structure in the region, with particular attention on vetting, recruitment and adherence to the principles and mandate of community policing, so that criminal elements do not operate under the cover of community policing. It also recommended that the State Law Office ‘operationalise’ the Witness Protection Agency so that those who have suffered serious violations or witnessed the same can be guaranteed of security and protection should they be required to appear in court to give evidence. Some members of the community, particularly those from lower Nyanchawa estate, said that they are still compelled to pay protection money to suspected Sungu Sungu members, who claim to be providing security. These amounts range from Sh50 to 200 per month per household. But the commission has warned that anybody found collecting money in the pretence of offering security will be arrested and prosecuted. Residents here believe that despite helping to maintain security, it is not clear ...
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