Fatherlessness and Crime in Kenya

Fatherlessness and Crime

This story by Ian Wafula, which originally aired on BBC News Africa’s Factfinder on 20 November 2019, is part of a series produced with support from the Arcus Foundation and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southern Africa. It emerged from an October 2019 journalism training workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.


CUE: Children who grow up without father figures in their lives are likely to end up in crime. This is according to a study of Kenya’s main prisons that found at least 46 percent of all inmates were fatherless or came from broken families. Researchers say fathers should be made aware of the detrimental consequences of their absence. BBC’s Ian Wafula reports. 


SOT: Elvis Muchoki

“How many of you here would like to be like your father?” Elvis asks inmates at Nairobi’s Industrial Area prison.

Not a single hand is raised.

SOT: Elvis Muchoki

“Then probably your children too do not want to be like you,” he teases them.

A report by Ndirangu Ngunjiri, a PHD student at the University of Nairobi, on Kenyan prisons and police stations found that:

  • 46% of inmates were fatherless
  • 60% of juvenile inmates come from fatherless homes
  • 90% of convicted rapists come from fatherless homes

Through questionnaires, the report was carried out between April to September 2019 and sampled 350 inmates.

For over 20 years, Elvis Muchoki survived through pickpocketing and stealing in Nairobi.

He has since reformed and has made his purpose to inspire inmates across the country through his story.


SOT: Elvis Muchoki

“My father was selfish, very self-centered, and my father loved money and women. I remember one day we were coming from school and there was this stretch, I found a crowd by the roadside. When I got there, it was my parents fighting…”

When his parents finally separated he found himself in the streets of Nairobi, and that is how he ended up in crime.

At 12 he was already working with some of Nairobi’s most wanted gangs.


In 2013, an investigative report by Kenya’s Citizen TV on public transport crimes in Nairobi exposed Elvis in one of his escapades.

SOT: “What are you looking at? If you go on like that you will soon die. You will die.”

He and his friends mostly targeted public transport commuters.

Elvis is in his third marriage. At 44, he is a father of six and already a grandfather to one.

“I was a very violent person.”


This is not your usual church service.

The sermons are tailored to give men space to talk about their issues.

Elvis is sharing his testimony here today. It has been seven years since he nearly lost his son, the reason he found religion.

SOT: Elvis Muchoki

My son fell from the 2nd floor of the building and he was literally fighting for his life. So when we were in hospital, I could tell my son was where he was because of what I did.

Today the preaching and teaching is on fatherhood.


Church founder George Mugwe, who has coached over 500 men, believes fatherlessness can come in three forms.

George Mugwe

“One, you can be un-fathered, that means you don’t have a father, you can be under-fathered, that means a father is there but he is not actively involved, but you can also be mis-fathered: a father is present but he is abusive in nature. That leaves the family exposed.”


The report by the University of Nairobi also found that toxic masculinity plays a huge role in the relationship between fathers and their children.

It says there is need for society to change the dominant notions of fathers as financial or material providers.

It recommends fathers to ritually spend time with their children while single mothers have an uncle or a man to mentor their children.


Every so often, Elvis finds time to play football with his son.

IAN: What does he mean to you?

Elvis: Everything. Being a father takes a lot of sacrifice. I live determined never to fail him. My dad is no more, but all my memories are all for the wrong reasons. I want him to have good memories about his father and above all to lay a foundation for him.


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