By Jeckonia Otieno
The National Security Intelligence Service think they are on top of things, but it might shock them that the average shopkeeper has ‘intelligence’ their spies have never heard of.
These information databases are freely found in the residential estates, especially areas that teem with humanity. In Eastlands, Nairobi, for instance, it is common for shops and bars to share the same premises with tenants, not to mention schools and churches.
Take an example of a storey building in Ghorofani, Mathare, where there are three shops on the ground floor, a noisy bar complete with belligerent patrons on the first floor and a church that competes for attention by drumming and screaming hellfire through the rooftop.
Of course both saturate patrons with spirit. One saturates the heart, the other saturates the head and both alter the worldview — temporarily at least! Now picture the sort of information that a hawkeyed ‘spy’ can gather in such a place.
The first information archive are the shopkeepers. They know who is who, what is happening but what would not appear in your daily newspaper — like the housewife who keeps mandazi in her bedroom or orders the house help to wash the family underwear. Yet they are so trusted that residents entrust them with their house keys.
Kamau wa Njoki, a shopkeeper in Kariobangi North, says he has seen what men and women are all about, but he dare not divulge secrets because that would mean the death of his business because customers would run from him.
He talks of having seen men and women who cheat discreetly for years on their spouses and is familiar with those who start borrowing from the kiosk barely hours after payday.
He talks of a man who leaves every morning for work, but dutifully sneaks back mid-morning every Wednesday when his wife is away. He needn’t wonder what a man would be doing at home when his fellow men are toiling in town or industrial area. Has to be the house help, the very girl whose boss loudly calls ‘stupid and ugly.’
On housewives who remain behind when their husbands have gone to toil, he stops short of calling them terrorists.
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