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EXPOSED: How Nairobians are being framed in trumped up charges by kanjo

Last Friday, John (not his real) was going about his business at his small shop in Nairobi’s CBD when county askaris walked in with administration police officers.

What he didn’t know was that hours later he would be pleading guilty to fake charges and paying a fine to the City Hall account, perhaps helping the county government reach its revenue targets.

John’s case was not isolated as a few blocks away, Caro* went through a similar ordeal on a different day after being accused of discharging raw sewage, an offense whose fine is up to Sh50,000.

Luckily for Caro, her employer, a shoe shop owner intervened with calls to council officials before she could plead guilty before City Hall’s Magistrate court and she was let free.

This is the story of many small business owners in downtown Nairobi who are living in fear of the ruthless askaris, commonly known as ‘kanjo’.

There are numerous stories of kanjo raiding shops in Nairobi’s CBD and arresting business operators and later framing them with various charges of littering, stepping on flowers beds and discharging raw sewage.

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“Despite us complying and obtaining licenses, we are being harassed and arrested then when taken to the City Hall basement you are told to accept the charges that will be read out to you at the Magistrate Court or else you shall be remanded at Industrial Area Prison. I was charged with littering yet this guys got me out of my shop. So I was fined Sh1, 900 which my friend deposited to the Co-operative Bank City Hall account,” John narrated.

In yet another case, a cleaner was last week arrested while scrubbing the pavement outside his employer’s shop and was charged with littering.

“At first I thought they were fake kanjos because even the passersby saw I was cleaning and not littering. I told them I wasn’t going to pay any bribe and that I was willing to be taken to City Hall. Funnily enough, when my charges were read out they stated that I had stepped on a flower bed and I was ordered to pay a fine of Sh2, 000. Is this the way the governor is managing to improve revenue collection that he has been bragging about on social media?” Ken* wondered.

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko did not return calls and text messages sent to him by Nairobi News but hours later after our inquiry he posted an update on his social media accounts on conmen he claimed were soliciting for bribes from Nairobians.

His public notice seemed to address mostly those conning people using fake social media accounts but our subsequent inquiry on the askaris framing Nairobians on dubious charges at City Hall went unanswered.

Editor’s Note: * Not the victims’ real names