138 Kidnappings: Kenya’s Forgotten Year

  • DCI detectives probe a crime scene in Kenya.
    DCI detectives probe a crime scene in Kenya.
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  • In what went down as one of Kenya’s darkest years (2017), 138 kidnappings incidents were reported, translating to an abduction incident every 2 and a half days.

    According to the National Crime Research Centre report, the alarming figure was only derived from cases captured in police records, adding that the number of similar incidents that went unreported could not be estimated.

    2021, and arguably 2020, could rival the dark year with countless stories of kidnapping victims grabbing national headlines

    In Kenya, abductions are becoming pervasive and its many negative effects on the country's social and economic fabric can be felt at different tiers of public life.

    crime scene
    A police crime scene
    Citizen Digital

    2018 was the last time the National Police Service (NPS) published its annual crime report, and the information gap has proven to be a challenge.

    Surprisingly, kidnapping was not mentioned in the entire NPS report, with ‘other offences against persons’ the category that could have included that particular crime.

    As per the NPS 2018 Annual Crime Report, there were 22,515 reported incidents tagged under the ‘other offences against persons’ category in 2017.

    The Kenya 2020 Crime & Safety Report, kidnapping was highlighted as a major threat, with warnings issued for both residents and non-residents to remain vigilant.

    “Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including some home invasions, burglaries, armed carjackings, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location,

    “Criminals will not hesitate to shoot a victim who is uncooperative, or who may appear to hesitate before complying with their assailant,” the report reads in part.

    Worrying Crime Trend in Kenya

    The surge in crime, in general, has raised alarm, with Kenyans questioning the Inspector General on what the NPS is doing to curtail the worrying trend.

    Some incidents such as the May 2021, kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Shantel Nzembi (in Kitengela), as well as the kidnapping and murder of Priscilla Naserian (an 11-year-old) just a month later - shocked the nation.

    The startling rise in similar incidents has exposed several shortcomings in Kenya’s security apparatus, with Kenyans demanding action.

    More recently, the rate at which Kenyan-Somali girls and children are being kidnapped raised concerns in neighbourhoods predominantly occupied by Kenyan-Somalis such as Eastleigh estate in Nairobi.

    Disturbing videos of victims sending messages to loved ones demanding payment of ransom have been surfacing on various social media platforms, further heightening panic and fear.

    The surging crime rate pushed the Kenya Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) to release a joint statement condemning the heinous acts.

    “We strongly condemn the constant attacks on children and abductions of girls and individuals across the country. This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for young girls and individuals to go through,” reads an excerpt from the report.

    The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) also condemned the kidnappings and murders witnessed in Nairobi and other parts of the country.

    “We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that children are protected wherever they are – at home, in schools, and in public spaces," UNICEF Kenyan representative Maniza Zaman stated.

    A comparative data report published by Nation Master showed that Kenya was ranked 6th across the world with 78.25 per cent of the population in fear of crime and worried about being attacked.

    In analysing kidnapping cases in Kenya, it is important to acknowledge the apparent correlation that exists between it and the time when Kenya enacted laws to specifically combat technology-based crime, otherwise known as cyber-crime.

    In 2011, the government introduced a policy framework and statutes specifically tailored to address ICT-based crime typologies, of which kidnapping is part.

    It is appreciated that kidnapping mainly involves usage of anonymous/unregistered mobile phone numbers by the perpetrators to demand ransom from the victims’ relatives and significant others

    According to the National Police Service, the raft of measures to curb this menace, it is projected that this type of crime will continue to be on the decline in the foreseeable future.

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    Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai speaks at the annual police conference held on Monday, July 5, 2021
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