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How domestic workers are aiding crime in Nairobi

Two days after Makueni MP Dan Maanzo was attacked by a gang of robbers at his home at Karen Hardy, a contingent of investigators from the CID stormed Lindi area in Kibera.

They were approaching anyone, especially young men, and asking them to identify the people in the photos they brought along.

A number of the young people interviewed said the police claimed those photos belonged to members of a gang that attacked the first time MP on February 19, stealing three mobile phones, a laptop and Sh10,000 in cash.

It appeared clear that the police were certain who they were looking for since Nairobi County Police Chief Benson Kibue had warned that they knew the people behind the attack and they were about to nail them.

“Wherever those gangsters are, you are not secure because we have your names and we are coming for you,” he claimed.

Three days since the CID officers swung into action, another high-profile robbery occurred at Karen Brooks.

This time the Bangladesh High Commissioner to Kenya, Wahidur Rahman, was robbed by masked men who took away money and goods amounting to Sh571,000.

In the last few months, cases of robbery in high-end neighbourhoods in Nairobi have been on the increase.

Karen has been hit badly with at least one case of armed robbery taking place each week.

The situation has become so bad that the Karen Langata District Association (KLDA) called a meeting of all residents on Saturday to discuss the matter. 

With its serene environment, imposing houses and rent costing up to Sh250,000 a month in rent, only the very rich can afford to live there. 

They are known to invest a lot in their personal security in form of electric fences, high walls, round-the-clock security by guards, alarms and CCTV.

With some of them being licensed firearm holders, robbing them in their houses is no walk in the park.

Mr Kennedy Kipkorir, a manager at Lavington Security which provides security to hundreds of clients in high-end estates, maintains that robbing a house in a neighbourhood like Karen has to be well-planned.

“Karen is not like any other neighbourhood where you can just drive around and suddenly decide to break into a house,” he says.

“The acreage of land owned by individuals is huge and the design of the houses is complex. You cannot tell who is on the other side of the wall because even the neighbours hardly know each other because they maintain minimum contact,” he adds.

Unlike the middle class residents of Nairobi who are guarded by communal security guards who are paid by landlords or an estate welfare in which all members make monthly contributions, the rich outsource their security through private security firms. Some pay for government protection.

The security firms, in a bid to maximise profits and minimise costs, employ the cheapest labour they can find.

To be considered for hiring in most cases, they look at your height, physical fitness and in some cases a KCSE certificate. After a few weeks’ training, you are given a client where you report every day.

The same procedure is used for other domestic workers like gardeners and house-helps.

With poor pay and little or no benefits, the employees live in nearby slums which have, over time, developed a symbiotic relationship with rich neighbourhoods.

To the rich, the slums provide cheap labour and to the poor, the adjacent rich neighbourhoods are a source for jobs. As a result, every rich estate has a slum nearby.

And so the rich who are very concerned with their security end up being worked for by people who live in openly dangerous areas.

This, in addition to poor pay, is a disaster, according to Nairobi CID chief Nicholas Kamwende who is leading investigations in the recent armed robberies in Karen.

“The security companies and other welfare companies need to look at the welfare of their employees. This is an industry issue but the pay they get should correspond with the value of the people or property they are guarding or working in,” he said. 

A statement issued by the police after Mr Maanzo was attacked indicated that it was just a normal robbery. No foul play was suspected.

Lang’ata police chief Titus Yoma said the gangsters accessed the house by scaling a wall, then gained entry into the house by breaking the kitchen door.

“They then grabbed the housegirl and forced her to take them to Maanzo’s room where they tortured him before robbing him,” he said. 

The MP insists he was being targeted politically and the police may have had a hand in the matter because Hardy police station is just a kilometre away from the house.

We have been able to reconstruct the events of that night from police reports and witness accounts.

At around 2 a.m. on that night, about five gangsters on foot scaled a wall that secures Trent Villas in Karen. They used a dustbin which was placed next to the wall from the inside to drop to the ground.

Interestingly, with the wall being eight feet high, it would be virtually impossible for someone from the outside to know the position of a dustbin on the other side of the wall unless they used a flash light which could have alerted the guards at the gate.

This is unless they knew in advance where the dustbin was or the guards were asleep or did not bother.

It is also unclear how a guard manning just four houses could not hear glass being shattered or people forcing their way into the house.

The property, a gated community with four palatial houses whose asking price is Sh49 million, is listed as being managed by Property Legend.

It is manned by two security guards round the clock. Apart from that, it has an electric fence on top of the eight foot wall. 

Mr Maanzo says the electric fence usually works but, for some reason, it was not working on that day. This was the same scenario in Mr Rahman’s robbery incident where gangsters scaled the wall at 9 pm before the electric fence was switched on.

Property Legend has since denied it manages the property and, instead, said it had handed it over to another company. It, however, failed to give us the name of the company.

The MP is assigned one armed bodyguard who he says was not around that day.

“My bodyguard had lost his child and so someone knew that he was not around and he figured this was the best time,” he said.

However, raw video footage shows the bodyguard, Bernard Musyoka, speaking to the press where he admitted being around during the robbery but he did not hear any commotion during the 50-minute ordeal.

In the video, he says he was not around but the MP had recalled him that day to escort him somewhere the next day.

“When I came back, the MP had not yet arrived that evening and when he came back between 11 pm and 12 am, I was not around. So I did not see him,” he said.

Mr Musyoka, who lives in an adjacent servant’s quarters, claims he did not hear any commotion during the ordeal, even though his job is to guard his boss.