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Armed robbers strike terror in all parts of city

It was just after lunch, heading to 2 pm, and Steve Biko Wafula, who styles himself on Twitter as @SokoAnalyst, was going for a family engagement in Buru Buru estate, Nairobi.

At the City Stadium round-about, he was caught up in traffic and decided to roll down the windows of his Mercedes Benz.

Out of the blues, he says, a young woman, no more than 25 years, calmly walked up to his window and shoved a gun in his face.

“She was so calm and looked so composed that I hesitated. Then she cocked; I let her and her accomplice take what they wanted,” Mr Wafula on Saturday.

The gangsters robbed him of his phones, wallet, laptop, tablet and cash. It was in full view of passengers and motorists in nearby vehicles, and the police officers manning the roundabout a few metres away, he says. None came to his rescue.

“It is not fair that you drive such a big car while our families stay hungry,” the thieves told him as they robbed him.

Mr Wafula abandoned his journey and turned around to report the matter at Central Police Station. He was even armed with a lead; his phone could be tracked by his mobile service provider, which showed that the culprits had gone into Mathare slums.

By Saturday, the police had not made any headway on the matter.

“A police officer friend told me not to bother – that it was too dangerous and logistically problematic for them to go into Mathare,” he said of his pursuit to recover his property.

That dramatic robbery is only one among many that have tracked Nairobi in the past month, making every part of the city unsafe as armed gangsters roam the streets and invade homes, robbing and getting away with it almost at will as the police appear overwhelmed by their job, or as in Mr Wafula’s case, unwilling to pursue the gangsters.

The ruthless gangs roaming the city know no boundaries, whether in the posh estates where the rich live or in the sprawling neighbourhoods inhabited by the middle class and the poor.

They attack on the streets, using stolen cars to trail motorists before carjacking them, or lurk near residential entrances and pounce on their victims.

Most recently, cases where robbers storm residential houses in the middle of the night, no matter how well secured, have been on the rise.

Such cases have occurred in Runda, Karen, Spring Valley, Kilimani, Muthangari, Gigiri and Kileleshwa, which ought to be some of the most secure places.

Suburbs such as Ongata Rongai and Kiserian, where many Nairobians have invested heavily in housing, have not been spared either.

 

Sometimes the robberies result in death, as has happened in Kasarani, Embakasi, Fedha, and South B and C estates.

Gangland style attacks in matatus driving to areas such as Huruma, Kayole, Dandora, Kibera, Mathare and Pipeline are commonplace. The carjackers often pose as passengers.

Cases of break-ins in which watchmen are either shot dead or injured are often reported in the Industrial Area where gangs raid to steal goods in godowns. In most cases, by the time police arrive at the scene, the gangsters are often long gone.

In one of the most prominent and recent incidents, David Mugonyi, communications secretary in the Office of the Deputy President, was carjacked on March 17 on Dennis Pritt Road in Kilimani, near State House.

He was accosted at his gate by four men, three of whom were armed with pistols. They took control of his Toyota Prado and drove with him towards the city centre.

They later abandoned him in Mlolongo after taking Sh120,000, phones and other valuables. His vehicle was later found near Pipeline, a crime-prone area.

Security expert Twalib Mbarak, while asserting police presence should be heightened to check crime, explains the menace goes beyond law enforcement.

“The conspicuous consumption patterns is a major contributor. Some people enjoy the good life, while others wallow in poverty. In Nairobi, for every posh area, there is a slum Lavington, Riverside (Kawangware), Kilimani, Hurlingham and Woodley (Kibera) and Muthaiga (Mathare North),” Mr Mbarak points out.

“Most of the guards, gardeners and househelps are drawn from these slums, who feed information about their bosses’ lifestyles. The same information eventually reaches criminals, and that is how crime evolves.”

Nairobi police chief Benson Kibui said investigations had revealed an alliance between private security guards manning residences and estates and criminal gangs.

“The security guards cut off power to the electric fences and then tip off gangsters. The collusion is widespread. Unfortunately, police cannot be everywhere; we urge home owners to be vigilant,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner of Police John Ndiema, who is in charge of inspections at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, at the vetting of senior officers revealed that police do not keep proper records or preserve evidence.

When the police respond in time, or after investigations, they are brutal the Flying Squad and the Special Crimes Prevention Unit have been cited.

For instance, on March 7, six men were gunned down in a shoot-out near the General Service Unit training school.

Police explained it was a result of a crackdown on criminal gangs to tame crime upsurge.

Mr Mbarak thinks this may not be the best approach.

“The police cannot win by shooting and arresting criminals. When one is killed, there are 50 more graduating. Police try their best, but the gangs are simply too big to be contained.”

“To address crime, the country must address socio-economic challenges by creating employment, make education relevant to social sustainability, and totally eradicate corruption.”

Last week, a memo to Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo, revealed that police are returning to the basics idea of mapping out crime prone areas and reviewing how police patrols should be conducted in future. Police also plan to re-introduce “999” patrol cars to respond to emergencies.

So far, Muthaiga is, perhaps, the safest place to live in in Nairobi. It’s heavily guarded by the General Service Unit.

The wealthy and mighty live there, including former President Kibaki, key Western diplomats and heads of global institutions with offices in Nairobi.

In the latest incidents, a three-man gang broke into Pastor Julian Kyula’s house on Friday and robbed him of money and other valuables. The gang made a hole through the concrete wall to gain entry then broke the main door.

About an hour earlier on Thika Road, Mr George Kiheru of the Nation Media Group, was attacked by four men, one carrying an AK-47 rifle. He had stopped at Roysambu to drop off a colleague, Mr Boniface Muigai.

They were bundled into another vehicle and later abandoned at Mowlem, Dandora, after being robbed of cash, mobile phones and other valuables.

A recent police reshuffle aimed at promoting efficiency, saw four division commanders transferred in Nairobi––Patrick Oduma (Central), Akelo Odhiambo (Embakasi), Titus Yoma (Langata), and Mathew Gwiyo (Dagoretti).

They were moved to Matuga (Kwale), Vigilance House, Kirinyaga South, and Mathira East in that order, and replaced by Fredrick Muthama Lai (Central), Appolo Wanyonyi (Embakasi), Elijah Mwangi (Langata), and Rashid Hulbale Mohammed (Dagoretti).