Lurking danger in Kenyan bars

May 6, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – Cases of drink-spiking in Nairobi pubs have soared to record levels and are increasingly worrying city residents, particularly male revellers who are the main targets.

’Drink-spiking’ occurs when a drug is added to one’s drink without their knowledge.

Drug and substance experts say the drug most likely to be used in spiking is not an illicit substance but simply contains a higher alcohol percentage capable of felling its victim within no time.

It can also result in blackouts, coma or a loss of one’s senses.

Spiking of drinks in some cases have led to more serious and long term consequences including death.

Lately, there have been numerous cases reported of patrons having their alcohol spiked, before they are dragged and robbed of money and other valuables.

Investigations carried out by Capital News revealed that main targets of this new bar rage are middle-class patrons.

Initially, drink-spiking was associated with bars on the downtown streets of River Road, Luthuli Avenue and even some bars on Tom Mboya and Ronald Ngala but today it is taking place in the affluent heart of the capital.

Patrons frequenting pubs in the Central Business District and plush fringes like Westlands and Hurlingham have been forced to be more vigilant or risk losing their money, ending up in hospitals without their knowledge.

“It is getting serious by day because unlike before, it is now happening even here in the city centre,” said a bar attendant who requested to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation by her bosses.

Popular pubs on Kenyatta and Moi Avenues frequented by foreigners and remarkable dozens of commercial sex workers may pass as the most notorious drink-spiking dens in town.

Interestingly, officers at the Central Police station said they do not hold any statistics of reported spiking.

“We have not recorded such cases. The only cases we have from those bars are robberies where people complain to have been forced to ATM’s to withdraw money at night. Not spiking,” Central Divisional Police chief Tito Kilonzi said.

But even as he maintains this position, waiters and waitresses interviewed by Capital News said Thursday, Friday and Saturday were the most dangerous days because of the high number of revellers in bars.

A manager at a pub in Westlands told Capital News that women involved in the spiking activities operate in groups of between three and five with at least two or three men who help them drain the men’s pockets once they hit their target.

“Every Friday or Saturday morning we receive at least three or four male patrons who show up seeking whereabouts of specific women who lured them at night and ended up robbing them of money. They never get to know them because they use proxy names and there is little we can do to help,” said another waitress who only identified herself as Milly.

“They dress well and are usually very outgoing because they strategically position themselves to ensure they get men’s attention. Some of them may easily pass as women in the corporate world because of their mode of dressing and make-up,” she said, eliminating the concept that it is only commercial sex workers who engage in spiking activities.

“They order expensive drinks and are able to pay their own bills but never hesitate to respond if a man sends them a drink or requests their contacts,” she said.

And she adds: “There are times we (waiters and waitresses) would like to help, but men will never want to be told anything against women they are attracted to. So when they (men) ask us to get them phone numbers from the women or send us to give them drinks, we just do it.”

In some cases, the barmaids themselves conspire with the ‘spikers’ by helping identify men with plenty of cash.

“I believe they conspire because they are the ones who interact with revellers. They are able to know who has money,” a reveller said.

Interestingly, in one of the pubs in Westlands, a manager on duty told Capital News spiking was not only associated with commercial sex workers and robbers.

“Some of the spikers are young men who target their girlfriends whom they overdose using date-rape drugs. Let people choose the right company for friendship and stop blaming barmaids and commercial sex workers for their own mistakes,” he said.

Women too are vulnerable and the consequences are equally serious including being gang-raped or even abduction.

With this life-threatening trend in bars, patrons are advised to be vigilant and to keep watch over their drinks while in bars to avoid falling prey to spikers.

One should strictly ensure he or she leaves their drinks under the care of someone they know or trust.

Male patrons should avoid leaving their drinks under the care of waiters and waitresses when going to the washrooms, especially in bars they are not accustomed to.

But even with the above measures, unless men stopped inviting women-strangers to their tables especially in bars flocked by commercial sex workers, they will continue to be vulnerable to the menace.

In the developed world, some pubs and clubs have adopted a drink spiking safety initiative where men leaving pubs with "groggy" women are asked for their Identification cards.

Already, the proposal is operating in New Zealand where leading licensed premises are asking men for their personal identification cards if they leave with a woman who appears intoxicated or drugged.


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