Kenya: Brazen Criminals Imposing Curfews in Njiru Estate

3 September 2019

Nairobi — It is time that saved Donald* from the ruthless hands of her sister's tormentors. 10 minutes to be precise.

He had turned off his motorcycle's engine just outside his shop and walked a few metres to his house, to change clothes, so that he could release his sister, who was at the shop attending to customers.

He removed the scarf and as he was about to unzip his heavy jacket, his phone rung. It was his neighbour.

"Don't come, there are thugs at your shop," the call dropped, leaving a message that left him shivering.

A call, he said during an interview with Capital News, left him in a catch 22 situation since his sister was under the mercies of armed criminals, while he knew making an appearance would put his life into a serious threat as well.

Three thugs, two armed with a pistol and another with a sword, had raided his shop located within Njiru ward, Kasarani constituency, but falls under the command of Kayole Police station.

In a matter of minutes, her sister had a fractured chin and was bleeding from the mouth, while a section of the day's earnings were gone by the gang that escaped on motorcycle.

"They wanted more money," her sister said, "writhing on the floor in pain," Donald narrated.

All this time, he insisted we conceal his face and make him sound different for security reasons. We promised to exactly that.

"I don't want to be hacked to death, I am already shaken following the incident," he said of the August 26 incident.

As his shop was being ransacked, another gang was terrorizing residents in the neighbouring rental flats. That night alone, two shops were robbed at gunpoint, while two 'latecomers' lost all their belongings.

Statistics available at Police Headquarters show that such incidents have become a norm in recent weeks.

-The unwritten curfew-

As it was for Donald, time is a factor for the youthful thugs terrorizing the residents of Njiru as it is for locals trying to avoid facing their wrath or simply coming into contact with them.

"They strike so fact, that police can count it as luck, if they catch up with them," Donald said.

Woe unto you if you are an early riser and a resident of Njiru- a calm estate from the outside, with clear demarcated roads though not tarmacked, but one whose residents are crying for help.

They say, you are even more doomed if you are the hardworking lot, that loves extending to late hours- from 8 pm to 10 pm- since the same fate will befall you.

Women who must go to the market in the early hours are the hard hit by the wave of uncontrolled security, that risks getting out of hand if not controlled.

To be secure, one must be in the house by 8 pm, victims and locals who spoke to Capital News said, and leave the house earliest not earlier than 6 am, they say, it is an unwritten curfew.

The incident occurred barely a few days after a police officer lost a firearm to thugs and after a local businessman was shot dead.

The latest incident occurred on Monday morning, when a woman was assaulted, during a robbery with violence incident that left her fighting for her life in hospital, after sustaining what police described as "life-threatening" injuries.

Two suspects have since been arrested and will be arraigned in court on Monday, police said.

-The night Emmanuel was killed-

Before he was killed, Emmanuel Amani, a Tanzanian was having a comical conversation with his friend Biden*, who was left to tell the story.

"We were just talking about how irritating some customers can be. Like when you sell something to them, and just when you are about to give them change, they ask for something else," this is the only fond memory he has, of his last moments with Amani.

It was about 10.30pm, according to Biden, when two thugs, one armed with a pistol, attacked them; they had posed as customers.

"They first asked whether they could make their payments using M-Pesa," he narrated. "Those were young guys whom I can easily identify."

But within no time, one of the thugs had forced his way inside Amani's shop and was raining blows on his head, as they demanded money, which they were given.

Biden had a gun pointed to his head and could do nothing to rescue his friend.

"Alianiambia nijaribu kufanya ujinga nione (they warned me against doing anything silly)," a teary Biden, who also sought his face to be concealed and voice altered out of fear, said.

Resident after resident narrated of their ordeal in the hands of the criminals and how they have been forced to adjust their working schedules- in a country aspiring to become a 24-hour economy.

"Those behind all this are very young boys but are lethal since they are either armed with a gun or knife," Eric Omondi, a security guard within the area said. "We appeal to police to simply do their job."

Mary Wamaitha, 27, talked of how she has to close her salon at 4 pm, just to be sure of her safety.

-A strained Obama Police post-

The affected area falls under Obama police post, which has about 13 security officers, under the command of Kayole Police Division.

A spot check by Capital News showed of an expansive area, rapidly growing with dusty roads that are well maintained. It also boasts of well-marked entries and exits, on almost every spot.

Unlike other areas where traffic is a common phenomenon, there are more motorcycles and water buzzer trucks in Njiru.

The post according to an officer deployed there is overwhelmed since they do not have a vehicle for quick response during emergency cases.

"Sometimes we fuel well-wishers' cars or use boda-boda's to respond to an incident," the officer, who cannot be named due to his rank said, told Capital News.

This echoed old tales of when police vehicles were not only scarce but rarely had fuel, a trend the Jubilee Government had vowed to end.

Just in October last year, the Government renewed a leasing deal with Vehicle and Equipment Leasing Ltd (Vaell) to supply cars to the police. A pact that is meant to oversee 3,000 vehicles leased to the National Police Service in addition to 1,200 others leased in the past four years.

It is a plan the Government said has saved taxpayers a whopping Sh1 billion annually as compared to when the government used to purchase vehicles for police officers.

Why then is Obama police post without a car? Who is to blame for the oversight?

-A poor police-public relationship a catalyst to the menace-

Victims of crime and area residents spoke of a sour relationship between them and officers at the Obama Police post.

They talked "of a bad attitude" by the officers, every time they gave a lead or report a case.

"Imagine being treated as a criminal while you are a victim? That is our life under these officers," said a local who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

Claims officers who spoke to Capital News denied saying "there has been a misunderstanding, which we intend to iron out."

It is a working relationship that took a deep end during a recent incident that involved a minor, who had been defiled by a middle-aged man.

"Police were reluctant to act," another resident said.

It is until locals piled pressure, they said, that the convict was arrested and charged.

-Police boss stormy meeting with officers-

And following this worrying trend, Kayole Police boss Wilson Kosgey held a "stormy meeting" with officers at Obama Police station, to find a lasting solution to the worrying situation.

The first meeting was a closed-door with the officers at the post followed with another with the Officer Commanding Station at Obama.

"It is a crime-prone area in Kayole," Kosgey, who admitted of a crime upsurge in the area, told Capital News.

He said the area, is the latest victim of a wave of crime affecting Kayole area, blamed on criminals aged between 16 and 25 years.

While the majority are students, others are school dropouts, who have chosen the dark path.

"The crime upsurge just shot up the other day in the area. No one has been spared. Not even our officers," the Police boss said.

While they have laid a strategy, to restore order, he said "a poor police-public working relationship" has worsened the case.

Already, he said, they have established what in police terms are called 'lock-up areas' which is basically strategic areas for deployment and 'crime clock'- timelines when most of the crimes have been taking place.

"I have taken upon myself to reinvent the wheel and do it differently," he asserted.

Authorities have already mapped out crime dens, he said, and escape routes. "We have to change our strategy," he said.

He has directed all crime dens (unattended facilities) to be demolished, miraa/muguka dens to be closed among a raft of measures meant to secure Njiru residents.

-Crime Upsurge during school holidays-

As established in a recent security article published on Capital News, still on insecurity in Kayole, closing schools comes with pain for most residents there.

This is tallied by police statistics, according to Kosgey, who noted that there are more cases of crime in August and December holidays compared to other months.

"They are young kids under pressure to either impress their girlfriends while some are under the influence of drugs," he said.

Others, he said, hail from financially-challenged backgrounds and have resorted in crime, to make the end meets.

"Unemployment is a major factor in crime," he said, of an area whose majority of its population is youthful, as it is across Kenya and the African continent.

The situation is so dire that there has been a robbery incident for a consecutive past three days.

Kosgey also intends to "activate the community policing committees" to ensure seamless flow of intelligence.

It is a story of daring thugs, who have in a matter of weeks accosted an armed police officer, outpowered him and made away with his loaded firearm, killed a businessman and caused untold suffering to tens of their victims, some of who are fighting for their lives in hospital.

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