“Wakati wa nyuma sisi vijana hatungeweza kukaa pamoja hivi, sababu ya chuki, vita vidogo vidogo, mihadharati, wanake…tulikuwa wauni, waizi..” ["In the past we young people could not live together like this, because of hatred, petty wars, drugs, and women… we were thieves."]
These are the confessions of a ringleader in a gang that used to violently rob people. He, in particular, used to idle around and wait for victims to rob. From a young man who has been shot at, stabbed, ridiculed by society to a reformed married young man who is ready to lead a transformed life.
“Kama sio Mungu sijui ningekuwa wapi…Tuna uwezo, tuna nguvu, tunaweza…tumegive up mapema na bado tuko umri mdogo…tujitume, kuna njia nyingi za kusaidika”, [If it was not for God, I do not know where I would abe. We are capable, we are strong, we can… give up early and we are still young… to commit, there are many ways to help”]
Another young man voicing his desperate moments in life, of him thinking that at such a young age his life was over and had nothing to live for.
These two young men are just one of the 300 reformed youth in Mombasa County, speaking at a trust-building meeting between security agencies and reformed youth to promote peace, behaviour transformation and change for positive living. Due to the COVID-19 protocols, the meeting was attended by only 180 of the reformed youth. Different security agencies, CSOs, partners joined the event which was facilitated by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya.
Mombasa Women of Faith has been greatly involved in the transformation of these youth. For a while, security agencies have been using enforcement of the law on these young men which didn’t work but the Women of Faith chose to use a dialogue approach in dealing with them. They have been able to identify and dialogue with these young men which have eventually borne fruits as some of them have chosen to leave that life behind.
“We need youth who are productive and can contribute to the nation’s economy,” – Shamsa Abubakar, Chair-lady Mombasa Women of Faith. She emphasized dialogue as an effective way to build relationships between the police service and the youth. The Mombasa Women of Faith in collaboration with the County government has worked closely to transform these youth.
“The biggest beneficiaries of these reform programs are the police officers thus security agencies should embrace them,” said Mr. Mwanzia, OCS Kadzandani during his address, he continued, “the criminal justice system might not reform the youth, but fill our prisons. Those who want to reform will be incorporated into the reform system”. He, therefore, urged the county government and authorities to work together to achieve this.
“Many youths were in the list of wanted people, whose files were closed when they decided to reform. The reformed youths have been pardoned,” said Robert Chebii, OCS Nyali. In his address, he appreciated the role village elders and community policing played. He also emphasised that the youth have been pardoned for their previous heinous acts because of their transformation.
The Mombasa Women of Faith Network has been working closely with CICC, local authorities and civil society organizations in addressing issues in the community such as fighting crimes and drug abuse in Mombasa. They also address youth who have been excluded from decision-making spaces, marginalized based on their age, faith or ethnicity. Through various efforts and interventions, youth are able to be more inclusive in participating in things that affect them, more vocal through different platforms and also tolerant of each other’s faith and belief.
"This is a celebration of new beginnings."
Dr Francis Kuria, Executive Director, IRCK
“This is a celebration of new beginnings,” said Dr Francis Kuria, Executive Director, IRCK in his remarks. He also welcomed the youth to join the interfaith Youth platform and emphasized a need to address gaps in families for when the family fails society fails. He emphasized that the police should also use citizenry language in order to incorporate the police into the citizenry and vice versa.
This was just the beginning, for the reformed youth need financial, spiritual and emotional support and empowerment example through the provision of free entrepreneurial skills if they are to stay on the straight and narrow. This is a role different institutions should play, from the CSOs, private entities, individuals, to the county and national government.