EXPOSED: Horrors of city askaris at the hands of hawkers’ terror gangs
The untold horrors that city askaris go through in the hands of gangs masquerading as hawkers can today be revealed.
Nairobi News got a rare access into the lives of city askaris, popularly known as Kanjo, who narrated the injuries they have suffered while in the line of duty, including broken shin bones, internal injuries, fractured ribs and mob-style beating in the hands of hawkers.
These cases of assault against city askaris, according assistant director in charge of operations at Nairobi city county Mr James Muhindi, are a daily phenomena that have defined their prey and predator relationship with city hawkers.
Already, four askaris are facing a murder charge over the death of a hawker, one Mr Irungu Kamau, who died on Duruma Road, in the city centre, on September 16, 2015. Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero has since denied allegations that his askaris are responsible for the killing.
The hawkers and the county government are pointing fingers at each other, with Governor Kidero claiming that criminals have infiltrated the hawking business and are extorting money from hawkers in the form of protection fee.
Hawkers who do not submit to the authority of these criminals are sometimes killed, he said.
Hawkers, on the other side, claim they are routinely being harassed and beaten by city askaris who demand hefty bribes in every location in the city centre.
City askari Shem Lumumba was brutally attacked and injured by hawkers along Munyu road while on duty and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The incident was reported at Kamukunji police station OB 87/11/12/06 and three suspects Samuel Mwangi, Jackson Kariithi and Peter Mwangi were arrested and charged with murder.
In another incident, city askari Emmanuel Minisoi was attacked by hawkers on his way home. The hawkers ambushed him together with his two colleagues along Muindi Mbingu Street. Mr Minisoi died on the spot but the other two were seriously injured and admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital.
Some of the city askaris who narrated their horrifying accounts to Nairobi News said they can no longer walk unaccompanied within the Central Business District (CBD) even during their days off for fear of being attacked.
One of them, a father of two and who has worked for City Hall since 1999, said his left side got paralysed after being waylaid by people be believe were hawkers in 2001. He was on his way home when he was attacked near Jivanjee gardens.
He spent more than three months at Kenyatta Hospital and has been on medication ever since. He was assigned lighter duties after he returned to work.
In February 2015, ‘Kelly’ was on his way home along Racecourse Road when he was stabbed in his abdomen by people he identified as hawkers who he had arrested the previous week.
His injuries we so bad that the taxi drivers who rushed him to the hospital had to hold his dangling intestines from falling. He was rushed him to Metropolitan hospital where he was admitted for more than three months. He is still under medication.
Another city askari told of how he was ambushed at around 2pm along Voi road, got kicked, stoned and dragged on the road for almost 100 meters before his colleagues came to rescue him.
He recovered consciousness in the hospital after three days and had to be admitted for an additional two weeks. His right ear went deaf.
Another city askari recounted how he had gone to help his colleague who was being attacked on Mfangano Street. He got hit with a pipe which cracked his skull. He went on a coma for three days. It took him almost three years to regain his speech and memory. He is still on medication.
LEFT FOR DEAD
Yet another one narrated how he has been attacked twice while in the line of duty. In the first instance, people he claim were hawkers got in a matatu and pulled him out and just started hitting him. He was left for the dead.
Luckily a county van was passing by and the driver recognised him. They picked him up and took him to Coptic hospital where he spent three days and stayed home for two months.
On his second attack, the hawkers claimed he was a thief, after receiving a mob-beating, he was picked up and taken to hospital by his colleagues where he spent seven days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He lost most of his front teeth and he since lost sense of his left face.
On this incident, he identified his attackers by their names and reported the matter at Central police station.
Relations between the hawkers and the city askaris however seems to be on the mend. County chief officer in charge of security compliance and disaster management Mr Francis Munyabu attributes it to the new training curriculum for city askaris.