Kifeesi Criminal Gang; How The Group Works

9609 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
While carrying out their missions, the gang members move in a V formation with their immediate supervisor at the head when they are about to strike.

It is 6pm on a Friday at Nasser Road, Kampala Central Division. The police crime intelligence office at Central Police station has received information that the Kifeesi Crew, a prominent criminal gang will be launching a 10-minute attack between 6 and 7pm, as they have done every day in the past one week.

A number of civilian-dressed operation officers including the Divisional Police Commander (DPC) Aaron Baguma are already stationed to arrest the Kifeesi crew members.

At 6:07pm, women begin screaming, handbags and phones have been stolen….young boys are running screaming ‘Mukwate, Mukwate Omubbi", meaning arrest him, arrest the thief.

Baguma issues an order on the radio call "arrest the people running".

At the end of the operation, five young boys have been arrested and are detained.

Leone Mukisa is one of the city traders who has seen the criminal gang in action and has been a victim of the attack twice, losing his money and mobile phones.

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The Kifeesi gang is known to operate in groups of not less than 15 people. The crew besieges a carefully scouted area on the streets and in the outskirts of trading centres and caries out daring robberies that don't last more than 10 minutes.

The group is well known especially in the city center and Entebbe Road and on many occasions, traders will smell trouble a few minutes to the attack and alarms are usually raised to warn that the gang members are in the area. 

On most occasions, the traders will scream "Bakifeesi baabo" literally meaning "the Kifeesi crew members are here".

While the crew is said to comprise of mature energetic men, the ones who carry out the petty theft operations are mainly young boys between 13 and 20 years. Their trademark dress code while in an operation is long sleeved shirts with the left sleeve folded. 

Unlike other petty thieves, the Kifeesi crew moves in cars and boda boda. In an ideal operation, the group members are dropped off to their venue of attack in a super custom motor vehicle or coasters.

The vehicles later pick them up when the operation has been completed from an area agreed upon during the planning of the attacks.

19-year old Musa Ssentogo who was arrested in November confessed to being a member of the crew. In his confession, he revealed that while carrying out their attacks, the gang members move in a ‘V' formation with their immediate supervisor at the head when they are about to strike. 

"The guy in front whistles out loudly signaling that it is time to strike and in not more than 10 minutes we have to be have picked enough handbags, phones, cash and other valuables," Ssentogo said in his statement.

A source within the police intelligence told URN that the criminal gang has an intelligence gathering crew that will first rake an area and map out possible escape routes before they report to their superiors who then debrief the thugs on how the mission will be executed.

The Kifeesi crew is bred from Katwe - Kinyoro, with their main base at Musoke zone. The gang, commanded by a one Face (Nickname arising from the failure by the crew member to know his face) has been in existence since 2010.

While the criminal gang is well known for petty theft, they also have an armed robberies wing, various cases of armed robberies and murder cases have been registered against them. His gang was suspected to have been responsible for raiding Mpala Police Station in 2013.

Police action against Kifeesi crew

The police has over the past years been carrying out operations to arrest members of the criminal gang.

Police statistics show that about 15 suspected members of the gang are arrested on a weekly basis, but this has not done much to rid the city of the gang.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango says the crew members have been arrested on several occasions but end up back into the gang after a few months or upon being granted bail.

Recruitments into the gang are continuous and the number of the members is on the rise.

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Apart from the arrests, police deployments have been made on the known black spots where the gang operates.

Police posts have also been set up in places like Nasser Road, Queens' way, Katwe and various points on the Entebbe road.

Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga says the police intelligence has also been able to penetrate into the criminal gang.

"We know the group now and we are able to know who attacked where and even though we may not have evidence to enforce their arrests, sometimes we are able to recover the stolen properties," Enanga says.

He adds, "when you come and report that your property has been stolen at this place on this day at a certain time, we use our sources in the gang to know who exactly has the property. We ask you if you want your property or want the culprit brought to book."

On most occasions where the suspect is arrested, the property is never recovered but in situations where the victim is interested in his/her property, it is always recovered and not much is known about the gang member. 


About the author

Dear Jeanne
Dear Jeanne is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Jeanne has been a URN staff member since 2014.

Jeanne started out as a political and crime reporter for NBS television in 2010. She went on to become a news director at the station before leaving in 2012 to join The Daily Monitor as an investigative reporter in 2012.

Jeanne is ambitious to improve her investigative reporting skills. Jeanne’s focus for much of her five year career has been to report on crime and security.