NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 10 – “My wife and I were about to go for lunch. I was waiting for her in my car as she had gone to do some shopping at nearby mall. The car doors were locked, but the windows were slightly open because of the heat. I was looking ahead from the driver’s seat when two men emerged from around the corner very casually. When they were about eight metres from the car, they split up, one going to the left of the car and the other to the right.”
“Suddenly, they were at the car doors pointing guns at me from both sides and shouting orders. After I started the car in obedience to their command, they screamed at me to get out and get in the back seat. One of them drove the car while the other forced me to keep my head down,”
“They kept talking about killing me and I kept praying and thinking of my dear wife, wondering how she would react on seeing that her husband and car had disappeared.”
This is a true life experience of one who fell into the hands of carjackers. It shows how quickly and unexpectedly carjackings can happen. It also illustrates common situations exploited by carjackers. In many places, it is no longer safe to wait or relax in a car parked on a residential road.
Taxi drivers are the ones who are most at risk since their line of work exposes them tremendously to this kind of onslaught.
George Kamau is a taxi driver in Nairobi and he says that it is common for cab drivers to be carjacked since they carry all manner of customers from the crème de la crème of the society to those who can barely foot the meter bill.
“I once carried people who pretended to be customers. After driving them for a while, they told me to stop in a deserted place after which they took over the car,” he recounts.
“They drove me around for a while and stole everything from me. After they were finished, they took me to Upper Hill where they dumped me.”
He says that despite the dangerous environment, they are still forced to do it due to the perilously hard times so prevalent today.
He points out that if one developed cold feet over these happenings, then life would be a difficult mountain to climb since they would not be able to earn their daily bread.
“I cannot describe such an occurrence as so surprising. It is just a common and expected crime that we have to live with in our line of work,” Mr Kamau says.
When asked what the police force can do to stem the incidences, he says with a rueful smile that it would be pointless to involve the law enforcement agencies since such incidences occur at the most unpredictable times.
His colleague Stanley Kimani is however of a different opinion. He says that the police need to put in more effort in the dispensation of their duties.
According to him, at times the police sometimes contribute to the increase in crime especially in the Central Business Districts.
“The police should do their work properly. If they could be efficient especially at the road blocks, this would be very welcome,” he said.
“Sometimes they just stop you at the roadblocks and then allow you to proceed without doing anything. So if you have been carjacked and you pass there with the thugs, there is no way that they can help you.”
Last month, thirteen taxi drivers were killed in what was termed as ritual related crimes with most of their body parts being dismembered in the process.
The latest killings occurred when a taxi driver who operated from Kimathi Street near the Stanley Hotel and another outside 680 Hotel were found murdered and their bodies dumped at Kibera slum.
The drivers’ bodies were dismembered with vital parts like the tongue, private parts and other organs missing, according to witnesses and fellow taxi operators.
The rest were killed on diverse dates between July 26 and August 31.
Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe however downplays the incidences terming them as one in a million of such isolated cases.
While stating that the Nairobi city was generally safer with the reduction in its crime rate, he re-stated the police force’s commitment to get to the bottom of the incidences.
”The city of Nairobi and its environs are relatively secure. We are still investigating the deaths of some taxi drivers in Kenyatta market but generally the situation is calm and every effort is being made to ensure that security is maintained,” the police spokesman said.
His sentiments are echoed by former Police Commissioner, Major General Hussein Ali who states that the country has been experiencing a lull in criminal activity in the past few months.
According to Mr Ali, the prevalence of serious crimes like car jacking, cattle rustling and other similar crimes has gone down.
“We are very pleased about the way the security situation in the country has improved. The serious crimes involving the use of fire-arms are down, carjacking have reduced and we have almost eradicated bank robberies and heists in the city centre and other areas.”
He says that the police force would now be concentrating more on other types of crime like environmental crimes like the discharge of waste and effluence in to water bodies, insurance firms and even the theft and trading in elephant tasks.
Indeed, whether the security status in the country has improved or not, the fact still remains that there is still more that needs to be done to guard against the sporadic spates of crime the erupts like a hot water sprout from the bowels of the earth.
In the experience at the outset, although the man lost all his possessions, he escaped unscathed since he was cooperative and non-aggressive.
He has since learned from the harrowing experience and is now more observant especially when parking his car.
Yes, every one from the motorist to the policeman can contribute to the reduction of carjackings and such similar incidents.
For the police, they can increase their vigilance especially when inspecting vehicles on roadblocks. They need to take their time and be alert to red flags indicating dangerous situations.
Motorists also can take extra precautions while driving and even when parking, they have to be extra-vigilant.
If you are driving in an area where carjackings have occurred, keep your car doors locked and your windows closed.
When slowing down to stop at an intersection, be alert for suspicious-looking people loitering on either side of the road.
Keeping a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you will allow for easier maneuverability to escape from danger.
If a car bumps into the rear of your car especially during late hours or very early morning, be cautious about getting out to inspect the damage. It might be a ruse. If an incident like this happens in a high-risk area, it would be safer to drive on to the nearest police station.
Be alert for strangers loitering near the entrance of your home. If you note such a situation, it would be safer to drive on and return home later, or you may decide to drive to the nearest police station.
If you have to wait in a parked car in a high-risk area or in an area where there are few people around, be alert to what is happening in front of you and behind you. If you suspect danger, start the car and drive around the block.