From criminal to ‘teacher’: the ex-gangster tackling crime in Nairobi | Global development

At the entrance of Kibagare, a slum in Nairobi’s outskirts, boots of useless gangsters dangle from electrical energy wires that hover over ramshackle houses of wooden and iron sheets.

With little state safety from crime, offended native individuals will usually take the legislation into their very own fingers and beat an offender who’s caught in the act, generally to loss of life.

All through a decade of crime and drug abuse, Peter Wainaina, 32, narrowly escaped loss of life on a number of events, till he retired from the underworld in 2009. Since then, he has guided tons of of criminals to do the similar.

“I suffered at the fingers of the police,” claims Wainaina. “I used to be tortured and unlawfully detained. However I additionally met good police who gave me a second probability, which I’m now extending to my friends.”

Wainaina’s initiative comes amid rising public mistrust of the police, with allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and corruption. Slums Network Reform (SNR) makes use of his expertise and networks in the world of crime to bridge the hole between a disgruntled inhabitants and a police power usually accused of brutality.

Peter Wainaina
Wainaina, often known as 2Sharp, made a recent begin in 2009, and arrange the Slum Community Reform, partnering with the police to assist offenders construct a life with out crime. {Photograph}: Hillary Dereva

Born and bred in Kibagare, Wainaina, who is named “the trainer” or kiongozi by these he has helped, was launched to crime at 12, when his father deserted the household and he grew to become its sole supplier.

Like the remainder of Nairobi’s slum dwellers, who account for about 60% of the metropolis’s inhabitants of 4.4 million, his life was a each day wrestle with poverty, despair and a scarcity of primary companies, in addition to rampant crime, which Kenya’s police have been accused of utilizing as a pretext for brutal power.

“Most criminals hail from slums. Inequalities in the society lead them to discover a higher life by means of crime,” says marketing campaign supervisor at Amnesty Worldwide Kenya, Steve Musau. “Being in poverty additionally stirs up peer strain the place these [involved] in medicine or crime have a tendency to encourage others negatively.”

Unable to discover a job, Wainaina rapidly moved from petty crime to armed theft and, fuelled by exhausting medicine, climbed the gang hierarchy. Dodging arrests and surviving mob justice, Wainaina earned the nickname “2Sharp” and have become one in every of the metropolis’s most needed criminals.

People on the street of a Nairobi slum
Almost 60% of Nairobi’s 4.4 million residents stay in slums, the place poverty and excessive unemployment see many younger individuals flip to crime. {Photograph}: Hillary Dereva

In 2009, two encounters with the authorities led him to begin afresh. A botched armed theft left his associates scattered: some useless, some escaped. He was arrested then launched; the arresting officer gave him a home-drawn tattoo of a capturing gun, a reminder of the second probability he was being given. However the subsequent day, Wainaina was detained by a distinct officer and alleges he was unlawfully held for months, tortured emotionally and bodily, and made to witness the brutality meted out to different criminals.

On his launch, Wainaina gave up crime, devoted himself to church, and in 2016 based SNR, searching for out criminals and inspiring them to reform. He’s now married and has two kids.

Kelvin Mwanga’s life was modified by Wainaina. As soon as a criminal who mugged and threatened individuals, he now works as a bus conductor on the busy Waiyaki Manner, west of the capital.

Mwanga, 26, says Wainaina’s efforts to flip him away from crime started in 2016. “At first, I wouldn’t hear him out. It was not till 2019, once I was caught by a mob after which arrested that 2Sharp’s persuasion made me resolve to change,” he says.

Wainaina supported him at court docket and secured him a job. He’s saving to purchase his personal bus with Criviv Sakwa, 26, who was additionally helped by Wainaina.

Haroun Kibogo has tranformed his life with Wainaina’s support now runs a shop.
Haroun Kibogo who remodeled his life with Wainaina’s assist and now runs a store. {Photograph}: Hillary Dereva

Haroun Kibogo, 29, a former gang member, says poverty made him drop out of college as a young person and turn out to be a fraudster. After his arrest, he says 2Sharp helped him “resonate with life’s actuality”, and “see the greater image and the optimistic issues life can provide”. Kibogo is now a household man and a shopkeeper and is a part of Wainaina’s initiative.

By seminars and workshops, Wainaina reaches individuals in the slums recognized for harmful gangs – Kibagare, Mathare, Dandora, and Kibera. Partnering with clergy, his connections amongst gangsters and the police, in addition to his scars from the mob assault and lynching he survived, are key to connecting with an underworld inaccessible to the state, and to negotiating bail outs and pardons for criminals.

“Peter’s initiative is sort of transformative since he makes use of a distinct method to avert crime,” says Musau. “His engagement with these criminals can be enhancing dialogue and good relationships with group members, in that oldsters search his assist and he will get their kids out of crime.”

Boots hanging on electricity wires at the entrance of Kibagare.
Boots hanging on electrical energy wires at the entrance of Kibagare slum, Nairobi, Kenya. {Photograph}: Hillary Dereva

A Nairobi-based senior police officer, talking anonymously, says Wainaina and his colleagues’ efforts “make our work simpler however we will’t say he’s doing our job”.

“The group has a accountability to guarantee there are not any criminals amongst them and Wainaina has been instrumental in this endeavour. By him some younger boys right here at the moment are making clear cash in the transport sector, in any other case as we speak they’d be rotting in jail,” he says.

However there are limitations. Wainaina’s assets prohibit his attain. Except for small donations he might get from households he has helped, he has no funding. Gangsters assume he’s nicely off and demand hefty handouts, he says, however he’s not at all times ready to repay criminals’ money owed to assist them go away crime. Kibogo, Wainaina’s childhood pal, recollects how one in every of the former gang members who had agreed to change returned to crime and met with an premature loss of life.

“My coronary heart was damaged when a boy we have been getting out of crime died after going again for a scarcity of $30, which he wanted to begin a enterprise,” Kibogo says. “He was hit [on purpose] by a driver who noticed him snatch a cellphone, and the mob descended on him to his loss of life.”

This text has been revealed in collaboration with Egab.

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