Reformed criminal recalls life in dreaded Mombasa gang
After his mother died in 2007, Juma Omar, 31, recalls it would mark the beginning of his life in violent crimes.
Omar would join the dreaded gangs of violent machete-welding gangs in Mombasa where he would be involved in series of robberies.
He was expected to sit his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE)exams in 2007 when his mother died. He gradually turned to drugs and eventually crime.
Omar, now a reformed gang member of the dreaded machete-wielding Wakali Kwanza criminal gang in Kisauni, regrets to have “lived by the sword” an experience he describes as “nasty.”
“We were brought up well without any problem. My father had died in 1998 and that means my mother’s death in 2007 had rendered us orphans alongside my siblings…so I turned to drugs and eventually I joined criminal gangs…we would us machetes to mug people, rob them and use the money to buy drugs,” Omar says, adding: “This life made me fierce, people would avoid me like leprosy. My profile was just dirty.”
He recalls the bitter experience of seeing majority of his friends being gunned down by police.
“I was there when my last friend to die, a fellow gang member by then was sprayed with nine bullets.
Seven bullets in his chest and two were targeted on his head. His brain was strewn all over my shirt.
But somehow I survived and that was the fifteenth time I had escaped death narrowly. This was something that made me start giving up crime because I have never been that afraid,” he says, he came back to his senses.
He is among 10s of members of Mombasa juvenile gangs who successfully transformed by abandoning criminal activities to start their own businesses following sensitisation and training on various entrepreneurship skills by a local nongovernmental organisation.
Surrender to authorities
Omar says crime life had taught him a bitter lesson and he started thinking of reforming.
In 2017, a local organisation –Dream Achievers Youth Organisation (DAYO) was on a community sensitisation campaign at his home area in Mwandoni and said they were ready to help criminal gang members, reform and start businesses.
Dayo Chief Executive Officer Seif Jira says Omar approached them and said he was ready to reform and abandon crime.
“We assessed him and advised him to surrender to authorities as a testimony that he is ready to reform…after few months we were convinced that he was committed and we took him through a one year process which involved various other organisation including civil rights organisations and finally he was reformed.
For starters we employed him as office assistance and he was doing very well,” says Jira.
Omar is among 24 other reformed criminals in Kisauni who benefited from training on various entrepreneurship skills and started their own businesses.
“I was given a capital of Sh10,000 to start a business. But you see for me Sh10,000 is a lot. I opened an account with KCB and saved Sh5, 000.
I went to Kongowea and bought women’s clothes because I know women love fashion,” says Omar.