Evans Otieno is a reformed criminal who is now running noble causes in Dandora. He tells his story of how he ended up in crime and how a call of nature saved his life as his crime partners were lynched by a mob.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
My name is Evans Otieno aka the “transformer”. I am the founder of Believers Transformation League, a community-based initiative that seeks to transform the face of Dandora through Green Spaces Initiatives. My home county is Kisumu.
Tell us about your life in crime.
I was a member of a gang that terrorised residents of Dandora and its environs. We used to snatch phones and other valuables like jewellery, wallets and handbags from unsuspecting residents. We had our own shop in Dandora where we hired someone to sell the stolen items for us.
What really prompted you into criminal life?
I can say its circumstances and life challenges. My siblings and I were orphaned at a tender age and as such, we were forced to fend for ourselves. My parents died when I was in Class two. I am the second born. My other siblings are Gordon Hiro my elder and the youngest is Trizah Akinyi.
My parents died when we were still young and did not understand what was going on. After their death, we were left under the custody of our grandmother who was living in Dandora estate. However, a few years later, she got ill and died, leaving us without a guardian.
We dropped out of school and we started hawking clothes for a living. But the business was not sustainable.
With time, I developed a curiosity to join a local gang that I admired for its fashion sense and flashy lifestyle. I approached one of them and expressed this desire and they agreed to accommodate me. That is how I became part of a gang.
How did you finally opt out?
I was at the shop with some of the gang members counting phones and other valuables we had stolen earlier. In short, we were doing stocktaking. Then I felt an urge to go for a short call; I left my friends to continue with the counting.
As I was returning to the shop, I saw a mob pouncing on my friends whom I had left in the shop. They were wielding crude weapons including pangas, sticks, stones, metal bars etc. My friends were screaming at the top of their voices pleading for lenience. They were left for dead.
I stopped midway and I heard somebody say “this is one of them” pointing at me. Like a flash of lightning, I dashed in the opposite direction and disappeared into the crowd. I thank God they never managed to catch up with me and that is how my life was spared.
I usually say that the call of nature spared me from death.
After disengaging yourself from crime, what did you now decide to do for a living?
I washed my hands from crime and vowed to look for legitimate ways of making a living. My experience taught me that crime doesn’t pay. From the time I started engaging in it, I never made any savings or have anything to show for it.
I started involving myself in various community services including cleaning sewage lines, landscaping, security services and even garbage collection. It is better to earn small money but through genuine ways than risk your life on crime.
I also joined a group of people with a good vision for Dandora and we are now creating safe green spaces where people can relax and undertake their various events at a small fee.
Our goal is to transform the face of Dandora from a filthy, dumpsite and crime-prone area to a safe environment for all people.
What is your advice to the youth who are involved in crime?
What helped me get out of crime is the transformation of my mindset. Once you start by transforming your mind and thoughts, that is the beginning of a new you.
My advice to those in crime is that they should change their mindset. When temptations come, avoid them by shifting your thoughts from crime to something positive.
Youth we have the power and potential to bring the change we want to see in our community. The change we need in our community starts with us.