Bondo shopping centre in Ugenya is slowly reverting to its past reputation as a hub of criminal gangs.
The shopping centre once collapsed following a spate of robberies that forced out traders, but it was re-opened four years ago following assurances of security by the authorities.
At the time, shops, petrol stations, hotels and other businesses were closed down, leaving a ghost centre where no one dared tread.
Even after the government established a police post at Sihay, a few kilometres from the centre, the traders here live in fear not knowing when the next attack will occur.
Little has changed, with residents accusing police officers of taking too long to respond to calls for help whenever an attack occurs.
Angry residents recently raided the home of a suspected robber and burned down all eight houses at the homestead.
The villagers said the thieves target shops and homes where they steal electronic goods.
A fuel station at the centre has borne the brunt of the attacks, being raided eight times since last year. This year alone, the premise has been attacked six times.
An attendant at the fuel station, Eunice Akoth, said the latest robbery occurred last Friday.
“A man came riding on a motor cycle with five jerricans and asked me to fill them with fuel. After filling the last jerrican he quickly rode off without paying. Efforts to get help proved futile,” narrated Ms Akoth.
She said a few weeks ago, the robbers tried breaking the CCTV cameras at the filling station while in October, fuel worth Sh10,000 was stolen.
“They have stolen from our filling station since January. In March, September and October they also raided our filling station. We have reported the thefts, but we have now become tired,” she noted.
Just 200 metres from the Sihay police post, the home of Dennis Radak was broken into on October 24.
“The thieves lured my caretaker to a chang’aa den from 6pm to around 2am. All this time there were others who were part of their gang stealing from my house. They made away with two music systems and a TV set. I made reports at the Sihay police post and Ukwala Police Station,” said Radak.
Mr Radak said two shop owners in Sihay market had also reported theft of their electronics from the shops.
“One kilometre away from Sihay in Ujuanga village, another home was attacked. The thieves took away a music system and a TV. This gang is into electronics,” added Radak.
Patrick Otieno, a motorcycle rider who operates within Bondo market stage, told The Standard that efforts by traders to employ night watchmen a year ago proved futile as some traders were not paying.
“It was a decision we all made for the security of our shops and goods but it did not last long. Some traders refused to pay the watchmen and they stopped coming. The police have been here to take statements but it always hits a dead end since they do not do follow up,” added Mr Otieno.
He blamed the police for laxity despite being provided with CCTV footage as evidence to aid in their investigation.
The traders now want the county government to light up the market that they feel has been abandoned despite them remitting taxes.
“The county government has only focused on Sihay market while forgetting Bondo market. We do not have floodlights to enhance our security. We are also asking the police to investigate any strange people who have been coming to stay within us,” he noted.
Residents living in Sihay and its environs say Bondo trading centre only came back to life with the introduction of devolution when traders were allocated market spaces by the county government to construct shops.
A few kilometres away from Bondo market is Jera market, where traders also suffer in the hands of robbers.
Traders claim their efforts to have the police beef up security have not been successful.
It is also in Sihay that an assistant chief who worked in the 1990s was arrested and jailed for colluding with thieves to steal cattle and rob shops and homes. The chief died while serving a jail term at Kodiaga Prison.
Fredrick Oduor, a businessman at Ligega market centre said he was shot and injured by armed robbers forcing him to shut down and relocate his businesses.
Ugenya OCPD Willy Simba, however, downplayed an increase in crime in East Ugenya Ward.
Mr Simba said most cases reported to his office were those of creating disturbance, suicide and illicit alcohol.
“We have not handled any robbery case since the year began. We have no such reported cases in our records. All our posts have police officers and there is no cause for alarm. We handle issues as they are reported,” said the OCPD.