Nakuru town's dark roads dim hope of a 24-hour economy

Joseck Thuo Road, Nakuru, at night. Most of the roads in the town are poorly lit and dangerous. [Standard]
Agnes Wang'ombe, 24, was walking along the dimly lit Kinuthia Mbugua Road in Nakuru town when a car suddenly pulled by her side.

The driver quickly stepped out and grabbed her, attempting to push her into the car. She fought back, kicking and screaming. The man gave up, shoved her back and drove off. But not before grabbing her mobile phone.

As her attacker's car disappeared down the dark road, Wang'ombe could not see its registration number clearly.

The newly rehabilitated road is not lit. 

Residents of the town that is fast on its way to becoming a city say poorly lit streets or those not lit at all are increasingly becoming insecurity hotpots, especially for female pedestrians and motorists.

Fear grips

A number of women who spoke to The Standard spoke of a fear that grips them while walking home through dimly lit streets as early as 8pm.

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For Wang'ombe, it was a close shave. Her walk home to Kabachia Estate nearly ended in a disaster.

"I would not advise anyone to walk through Kinuthia Road when it's dark, it is not safe," she says. 

It is not just Kinuthia Mbugua Road that descends into darkness every nightfall. A spot check by The Standard revealed that most of the streets and lanes in the town either do not have lights or the lights have not been working for long.

The main Northern Corridor highway that cuts through the town has no streetlights. The stretch from Barnabas to Eveready that has two interchanges at Section 58 and the Njoro turn is pitch dark.

Even Nakuru town's main street, Kenyatta Avenue, gets very dark when night falls, only seeing little light from nearby buildings and passing vehicles. So are others such as Court Road, Oginga Odinga and Moi roads.

City status

Traders are now questioning the town's push for city status and promises of turning it into a 24-hour economy.

"How do we transact businesses at night in such a dark town?" says Beatrice Maina, a trader at Maasai Market. 

Traders in the town's Central Business District say lack of streetlights means business ends at sunset.

"A well-lit street would reduce fear. It would make the street welcoming for clients and visitors," says businessman Zahir Kumar.

More life

Mr Kumar, who operates a computer accessories business in the CBD, says lighting up the streets would inject some life in Nakuru town's nightlife.

"Imagine more people, especially women, selling fruits and vegetables at night along the streets. Just their presence would make a place feel safe," he says.

Walking in the darkness is not limited to the streets in the CBD. Most of the floodlights set up in the town's estates also ceased to work.

"Try walking off Kenyatta Avenue and heading to Freehold Estate. You can barely see in the darkness," says John Kamau, a banker.

Even where there are streetlights, they flicker on and off, leaving pedestrians in the middle of darkness without warning.

"I just don't understand what to do when that happens. Crossing the road is dangerous enough, but using the sidewalk at night is not safe either," says Philip Ogada, a resident.

The County Director of Communications Beatrice Obwocha admitted that the town needed more lighting.

"Yes, there are gaps, which we are aware of and which we are trying to fix. The long-term solution is using LED bulbs on the entire street network. This will ensure uniform light quality throughout the town," she said.

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Kinuthia Mbugua RoadNakuru townKabachia EstateNjoro turnCourt RoadOginga Odinga Road