Darkness engulfs Nairobi streets

October 16, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 – Lack of security in Nairobi, particularly at night has been blamed on lack of proper lighting on highways, main streets and feeder roads.

Cases of mugging and other violent robberies have been on the increase, particularly on feeder roads and dark alleys.

“What is more disappointing is that this is happening not only in the backstreets of downtown Nairobi but in the Central Business District as well,” Michael Kamau, a city resident told Capital News.

Statistics at the Central Police station show that most of these cases occur between 6.30 pm and midnight and they affect both motorists and pedestrians.

“Cases of mugging are on the increase, we are receiving a lot of cases on a daily basis with such complains of people losing items to muggers particularly at night,” deputy police chief at the Central Divisional Police headquarters Joseph Atuti said.

Most of these cases, he said, are reported by motorists whose vehicles are broken into and their belongings stolen.

“Others are the ones whose mobiles and hand bags are snatched by muggers particularly at night,” he added.

Some of the motorists interviewed by Capital News said they had lost one or two commodities from their vehicles as a result of break-ins.

“I had parked my car on Kenyatta Avenue at about 6 pm to meet a friend in a restaurant nearby. When I was going home at about 9 pm, I realized my doors had been tampered with and my car radio stolen. I reported the matter at the Central Police station but they did not help me because they only said they would investigate the matter,” a motorist Caroline Chebet said.

She said she did not realize the spot where she parked her car was dark until when she went to pick it.

“I parked my car in the day but when I went there in the evening I realized the area was dark. I could not have parked there if I knew this,” she added.

Another motorist who is computer analyst in town Peter Mwaura told Capital News he was attacked as he entered his car on City Hall Way a week ago.

“When I was walking towards my car, I saw two young men passing but it did not occur to me they were thugs, they attacked me as I opened the car and they asked me to surrender my mobile phones and money. I was so shocked because I thought they were out to abduct me,” Mwaura said.

Sylvia Chesang’ a student at Moi University told Capital News she was recently mugged by three young men as she walked to a bus stop on Ronald Ngala Street.

And most of these cases are blamed on lack of adequate lighting in the city as confirmed by our spot check which revealed that most security lights have broken down or are not working at all.

On City Hall Way for instance, up to four security lights are not working. At least six security lights on Aga Khan Walk are equally not working.

Moi Avenue, Kimathi Street and Kenyatta Avenue are not badly off although some security light poles are only visible complete with bulbs but they remain off at night when they are most needed.

When we checked on Wednesday night, Muindi Mbingu Street was not badly off though not all the security lights were on.

With most of these streets becoming darker by the day, city residents can only peg their hopes on the City Council of Nairobi which is charged with the sole responsibility of lighting up the city amongst other duties.

Our efforts to get in touch with Town Clerk Philip Kisia were fruitless.

Nairobi Central Business District Association (NCBDA) Chairman Timothy Muriuki promised to raise the concerns with authorities at City Hall.

“We have noticed a lot of dark streets and we will be raising this issue with the city engineer because such lights are very important for security and safety,” Muriuki said.

“We will definitely raise this issue with the city engineer because you realize there used to be some people who used to go round with a motor cycle to check on security lights and to repair but it appears it is no longer happening. We are really concerned about this,” he said.

Mr Muriuki said although there is a dispute between the City Council and Adopt-A-Light, a private company which partnered with the council to light most of the city streets, there was no excuse to have darkness in town.

“It is the responsibility of the council to light up the city, it does not matter if there is a dispute or not,” he said.

Adopt-A-Light founder Esther Passaris said: “it is unfortunate that Nairobi has gone back to the dark days.”

“Adopt-A-light was a fantastic model, it has worked in many towns. It is workable because there are many partnerships that can be done,” she said.

“Look at what is happening now, the highway is dark, and it is risky to Kenyans,” she said.

Asked to comment about the council’s inefficiency in replacing broken down electricity poles or lights, she said: “Today it is appalling to see what is going on. It is also very dangerous, when a pole is knocked down, you’ve got to go in and straight away terminate all those electrical lines because those lines are still live. I have seen so many poles that are live on the highway and it is scary.”

“If you are the Town Clerk or the Mayor and you don’t care that the city is getting dark, who am I to care?” I can only wait for the judicial process to take its own direction,” she said.


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