Dandora dumpsite turned to gun market as gangs take over - report - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 11 February 2021

Dandora dumpsite turned to gun market as gangs take over - report


The lack of police intervention has made the Dandora dumpsite an attractive location for storing contraband such as guns and drugs.

A report by the Global Initiative Against Transitional Organised Crime indicates that the site has become a big location where these goods exchange hands.

According to the report, firearms are hidden in waste transported to the area because rubbish is hard to physically check and there are no scanners at the toll station.

The report reveals that the 'Boma Village', a settlement within the dumpsite has become a stock exchange for guns with police having no capacity to make any arrests.

"The garbage isn’t screened. Police cannot hazard a swoop down on the village because they don't know what happens there," read part of the report seen by the Star.

According to the survey, In 2018, police attempted to ransack the said Boma Village in search of firearms but were repulsed in an exchange of fire with criminals.

There have been allegations that gangs are allowed to deal with guns at the dumpsite as long as they protect the interests of private waste-management companies allied to powerful people in the government.

According to the report, groups of waste pickers work at the dumpsite reclaiming metals and other materials to sell on, but the line between an informal subsistence economy and criminal organizations is blurred.

These waste-picking groups have also been implicated in violence at the dumpsite in addition to charging an illegal fee for entry into the site.

In October 2013, a youth was shot dead and his body hacked, doused in fuel and torched when gangs clashed over control of the dumpsite.

Reports indicate that police from a nearby station merely watched from a distance.

That same month another gang member was stabbed to death in a turf war In which gang members exchanged fire for almost five hours as officers from the nearby Kinyago Police Station looked on, afraid of intervening in case they were robbed of their guns.

Two people lost their lives in the turf war that followed.

Garbage trucks line up awaiting clearance from the Dandora dumpsite weighbridge on August 16, 2018.
Garbage trucks line up awaiting clearance from the Dandora dumpsite weighbridge on August 16, 2018.

In 2014, the then area MP James Gakuya claimed that gangs were causing insecurity and argued that the Dandora dumpsite be relocated, forcing the High Court to direct the National Environmental Management Authority to undertake an audit of the dumpsite.

However vested interests have made it impossible for the dumpsite to be relocated.

Police oversight was subsequently withdrawn from the dumpsite, which has become a no-go area for cops.

Interviewees told GI-TOC that the removal of the police presence has meant that the dumpsite has become more violent.

Clashes often break out for control of rubbish, in most cases between youth from Dandora and Korogocho, two neighbouring informal settlements.

The dumpsite is the only designated dump for the thousands of tonnes of rubbish produced daily in Nairobi.

 The report indicates it has become the hub for criminal groups and corrupt figures who have infiltrated the waste-disposal sector at a number of levels, from household-rubbish collection to waste transport.

The site itself is in a sprawling 30-acre area located in the middle of an informal settlement that is home to thousands of people.

It has long been acknowledged as a dysfunctional and highly dangerous part of Nairobi’s municipal infrastructure.

Over the years, the site has seen Dandora become a hub for criminal groups and corrupt figures who operate in the city’s rubbish-collection industry.

The criminalization of Dandora follows both international trends and local factors attributed to the waste sector as a prime target for organized crime.

The waste-management sector is vulnerable to criminal exploitation because it can offer high-profit margins at low risk of getting caught for involvement in illegal activities, particularly as the main regulatory agencies involved in the sector are generally not part of the criminal justice system.

In 2018, the Star ran a story on how cartels had invaded the sector depriving the county millions of shillings in a day.

Some of the gang group that keeps vigil at the dumpsite
Some of the gang group that keeps vigil at the dumpsite

Attempts to regulate hazardous materials often create a breeding ground for cutting corners and exploiting legislative loopholes.

The various stages of processing waste from the collection from businesses and houses to the transport of waste and management of the dumpsites themselves all offer opportunities for criminal rent-seeking and territorial control, and for corruption in the management of municipal contracts awarded to companies.

City hall is said to be collecting only a portion of the city’s waste mostly from markets and factories.

According to the report, it has hired other ministries, state companies and private collectors to do the remainder on its behalf.

Unfortunately, the report indicates that these organizations then charge residents additional fees to collect their waste.

An official from the Kenyan Alliance of Resident Associations while confirming the sector is lucrative, said about 900 000 households pay private collectors an average of Sh500 per month to collect their rubbish.

This amounts to over Sh5.4 billion in levies that the Private sector runs away with.

This has been made possible by the criminal groups and corrupt figures who are involved at several points in the waste-removal process.

In some neighbourhoods, the house-to-house collection is controlled by the gangs who use violence to ensure that their services are contracted and paid for.

In cases where one refuses to pay, the gangs will pour raw sewage on their doorstep or rob their compound.

If one insists on refusing their services, they send people to threaten them.

The report further reveals that criminals also profit when the trucks come to the dumpsite to unload waste.

According to the report, about 100 trucks deposit waste at Dandora dumpsite every day, many owned by about 150 private-sector waste operators.

These operators are paid per truckload delivered to the dumpsite, as measured at the weighbridge.

Trucks transport garbage to the Dandora dumpsite on June 5 last year
Trucks transport garbage to the Dandora dumpsite on June 5 last year

However, according to interviews with a number of gang leaders, some of these trucks arrive empty but are still invoiced, while others are invoiced multiple times for a single load of rubbish.

The weighbridge is most times non-functional, yet trucks are paid for non-existent ‘clocking’ into the weighbridge.

To ensure corruption runs smoothly, members of dumpsite-based gangs are stationed at the weighbridge to look after the interests of their patrons.

According to the report, there is an intricate web of relationships stretching between City Hall and the dumpsite, connecting politicians, private waste companies and the gangs.

In interviews conducted by GI-TOC, the waste-management tender process is used to influence members of the county assembly to ensure their support for leading political figures.

Some county assembly members make arrangements with the companies who win tenders in exchange for personal or campaign donations and request that these companies hire certain young people to act as rubbish collectors.

"These young people are typically the same men who have worked for the assembly members as ‘security’ during their election campaigns," read part of the report.

"They largely move the waste from households to a central collection point, where it is collected by trucks belonging to either the county or private companies to go to the dumpsite," it read.

According to the report, some of the criminal groups are owned by particular members of the county assembly who had during election campaigns promised the youths jobs.

"Essentially, these are extortion groups because they demand fees from residents for the job that is really undertaken by the county government," the report said.

A senior official in the Revenue Department at City Hall further highlighted the risks of challenging the status quo, saying ‘you don’t ask questions about the management and operations at the dumpsite unless you want to be eliminated’.

As a result, the corrupt way in which waste is managed in Nairobi has sapped the county of resources to provide waste-removal services and left neighbourhoods to be extorted by criminal service providers.

Initially, City Hall used to collect millions of shillings in revenue in a month from the dumpsite about five years ago but now all it gets is Sh50,000 per week.

"The fraud and lack of oversight that accompanies the criminalization of the waste-management sector is so severe that Nairobi does not even know how much rubbish it actually produces, and so how much needs to be collected," the report said.

While some reports indicate Nairobi produces 2,500 tonnes of rubbish per day, others show 3,500 tonnes.

"The level of procurement irregularity such as double-invoicing, and the proliferation of illegal and unofficial dumpsites as transporters avoid the dumpsite due to its poor access, the dysfunctional weighbridge and the fines levied by gangs makes exact estimates nearly impossible," the report said.

According to the report, the complex ecosystem of criminality and corruption seen at the dumpsite is a reflection of the systemic vulnerabilities seen in the waste sector elsewhere in the world, but it has also been driven by local factors.

Nairobi, like other cities in Kenya, has seen rapid urban growth over the past 30 years.

Over that time, waste production has grown massively, while political developments paved the way for violent actors to enter the waste sector.

The austerity measures of the 1990s which resulted in the City Council retreating from service provision led to the informalisation of the economy of Nairobi and the entry of private actors into urban service provision and increased competition for clients and control competition that in some instances became violent.

This the report reveals became an entrenched problem in the first decade of the new millennium as political actors offered impunity for illicit enterprises to criminal gangs who worked for them during campaign periods.

"The failure to deal with more ‘white-collar’ forms of corruption in the city administration also allowed corrupt political actors to operate with impunity," the report said.

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