What next as crime soars in Kenya

July 13, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – Every morning, Kenyans wake up to the alarming news of carjackings, armed robberies, murders and kidnappings mainly in Nairobi where at least four to five such cases are reported daily.

One in every five people Capital News spoke to had fallen victim, or knew somebody who had suffered in the hands of criminals in the recent past.

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It is now clear that crime is becoming worse by the day; although police headquarters maintains that the levels are under manageable parameters.

“We are in total control of the situation. There is nothing like crime is on the increase,” Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe said.
He asserted:  “It is only the isolated incidents which make people believe that crime is on the increase. We cannot rely on that,” he said. “Our statistics tell it all. There is no increase.”

But other senior police officers who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the matter conceded that they were equally concerned at the high level of armed robberies and murder cases.

Our investigation shows that barely a week passes by without reports of a person being shot by gangsters, mainly in Nairobi.

The latest case is that of Ashit Sharma, a city businessman who was shot and seriously wounded by gangsters on Friday night in Parklands.

Mr Sharma is one of the founders of a community policing initiative dubbed ‘Operation Reduce Crime’ for Parklands residents.

He was shot in the stomach and robbed of his firearm (by criminals who clearly knew who he was) after he stopped at an accident scene on Forest Road.

Mr Sharma was standing outside his car which, according to police, was recognised by gangsters because of high security antennae fitted on it.

He is recuperating at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi.

Gigiri divisional Police chief David Kerina told Capital News that no suspect had been arrested. “We are following leads, and we hope to find them soon.”

On the same night he was shot, four carjacking incidents and six robberies were reported in Nairobi including the shooting of a man at a hotel in South C.

In the month of June alone, five high profile robberies and carjacking were reported including the killing of Kenyatta University lecturer Prof Peter Kenya who was shot dead in Githurai estate.

On June 9, Khwisero MP Evans Bulimo Akula was carjacked and robbed before being freed unharmed in a three-hour daring ordeal.

He was later to describe it to Capital News as “the worst incident in my life” but said he was lucky to be alive for cooperating with the heavily armed gangsters.

The lawmaker said he was attacked as he entered his compound on Rhapta Road at about 11 pm.

“They drove my Mercedez Benz car around the city for hours and when they asked for money, I said I could get them Sh50,000 and that was what was in the ATM. They stopped the vehicle and one of them asked for my PIN and went to the cash point. It saved me because they abandoned me,” he said.

The gangsters fled in Mr Akula’s vehicle after giving him another stolen car to get himself home.  He arrived at his residence only to discover that the owner of the stolen vehicle was still locked up in the boot.

Mr Akula’s encounter with gangsters is a classic example of how daring robbers have become – They drove around the city for three hours with the owner on board with another stolen saloon car in tow despite numerous police road blocks.

Mr Akula said their journey covered the better part of Westlands, Parklands, Pangani all along Thika road to Githurai before they joined Outering Road.

And even after abandoning Mr Akula in Upper Hill, the gangsters are reported to have driven all the way to Githurai where the vehicle was recovered the following day.

Here, pertinent questions emerge about how gangsters can be to drive through police roadblocks for several hours while carrying AK 47 rifles without fear that they will be nabbed.

“Clearly, the police are sleeping on the job or are accomplices who let criminals pass through roadblocks without bothering to stop them,” a victim who requested anonymity said.

The city’s Lavington, Kileleshwa, Westlands, Lang’ata and estates on Ngong Road which were once thought to be safe areas have now become targets for the criminals.

On the night of July 5, five gangsters stormed the home of Justice Assistant Minister William Cheptumo in Lang’ata, held him and his family hostage for nearly three hours.  They stole Sh300,000 and electronics which they loaded onto his four wheel drive vehicle which was later found abandoned in Mathare.

Mr Cheptumo told police that he had earlier arrived from an official trip in Geneva, Switzerland and was watching the 7pm news when the gun-toting thugs stormed his house and tied him and his family members with neck ties and other garments.

Security experts attribute the increased guns at the hands of criminals to the porous border with lawless Somalia.

“There is need for the government to heighten security patrols at the border points and invest in gun detectors for the police to succeed in the war against crime,” Simiyu Weruga, a security expert said.


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