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Time up for Kenyan gangs

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – Kenya has now raised the stakes in the fight against organised crime and illegal groups by legislating tough penalties.

Parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed the Prevention of Organised Crime Bill 2010 which imposes jail terms ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment on crimes related to organised gangs.

The new law defines an organised criminal group as a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and performs or threatens to kidnap, extort money, commit violence or recruit others into the gang.

“A person who engages in any organised criminal activity as specified commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fifteen years, or both,” states the Bill.

It imposes life imprisonment for anyone caught with an unlicensed firearm or leases a licensed gun for crime or who commits an offence under this Act which results to the death of another.

“I want to request the Vice President and the Commissioner of Prisons to expand prisons for these people,” said Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode indicating that the government will be serious in clamping down offenders.

The Bill also imposes life imprisonment for anyone who is caught taking an oath, administering an oath to another or forcing another one to take the oath to belong to an organised criminal group.

The new law also clearly defines how one can be identified as a member of an organised criminal group.

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“One can be identified by name, colours, symbol, style of dress and grooming, use of hand signs, language, tattoos or other representation associated with the organised criminal group,” states the new law.

Anyone who obstructs the giving of evidence or investigations or commits an offence shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both.

The Attorney General will get powers to search and or freeze property or accounts suspected to belong or to be held on behalf of a person involved in organized crime.

The Bill now awaits Presidential assent.

Kenya has for many years struggled with how to deal with illegal groups, some of which have wrecked havoc.  There was no express law to deal with these and the new law comes on time.

Groups such as Mungiki, Sungu Sungu, Taliban, Chinkororo and the Sabaot Land Defense Force have proved a hard nut to crack at times.

Dealing with the groups is however likely to pose a big challenge to the government as it is estimated that their members run into millions.

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