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The convent, mosque and their odd noisy neighbours

By Mercy Adhiambo | Apr 22nd 2018 | 4 min read
Space Lounge club operating at night even after City Hall ordered its closure. [Photo: James Mwangi]

Eight years ago, Felisters Mutuku made a decision to abandon worldly pleasures and become a Catholic sister. She had prayed, fasted, consulted.

When she felt God had spoken to her heart, she joined the convent of Ursuline Sisters on Ngong Road, Nairobi. She says since childhood, she had a mental picture of how life in the convent would be – serene, quiet and peaceful.

“It was good until they came in,” she says, referring to their neighbour - Space Lounge Bar and Grill.

They arrived with a bang last year. The bar played loud music that permeated through the wall separating them, overwhelming the nuns’ rosary recitals and night prayers. They also mounted a huge electronic screen that projected raunchy images of scantily dressed females gyrating to explicit music, much to the chagrin of the sisters who have vowed a life of chastity and modesty. From their rooms on the first floor, they could see everything happening inside the bar. 

The sisters say every night, they would lay awake, tormented by sounds of revellers yelling obscenities the whole night. Some of the sisters kept watch by the walls where they say revellers from Space Lounge would relieve themselves with reckless abandon after hours of imbibing alcohol.

“We had a live fence, but it shrivelled. The stench is too much,” says Sister Felisters.

A few months after the establishment of Space Lounge, residents and some of the sisters approached Governor Mike Sonko to intervene so they could enjoy they life they had envisioned.

Court order

In January, National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) swooped in and shut the club, among other establishments that were said to be going against the rules.

The peace was short-lived. Two weeks later, the neighbours were back. This time, louder than before.

When Sunday Standard visited the bar last week, loud music blared from large speakers. The club owners declined to comment, with one of their associates saying they are consulting with the board to see how best to handle media.

The sisters regard their neighbours as a nuisance, while customers of the bar feel the sisters are too rigid.

Kennedy Odhiambo, the liquor licensing chairman at Nairobi County says the war between the two neighbours is beyond them. “We cannot act because the bar has a court order to operate,” he says.

When the clubs were closed in January, they went to court and got an order allowing them to operate.

Nema says even though they are aware of the noise in pubs, they cannot act because ‘noise control was devolved.’

“Noise pollution was taken to county governments, we were left with waste management and other duties,” says Evans Nyabuto, Nema’s communication manager.

Other religious groups fighting their odd neighbours are Jamia Mosque who are displeased with the three pubs -- Bobos, Mojos and Tribeka -- on Banda Street.

Abusufian Ahmed, head of media at Jamia Mosque says when party time at the pubs coincide with their prayer hour, it is chaotic.

“Weekends are the worst. The music and noise is too loud. We hear everything they are saying while we are praying in the mosque,” he says.

Abdi Rahman Ali, one of the worshipers at the mosque, says they are forced to squeeze in between acrobats and dancers who perform on the road at night to entertain revelers.   

There is also another thing troubling the Muslim faithful. The working girls of the night who stroll the streets to solicit for customers. Their search leads them to the entrance of the mosque. When the faithful leave the mosque, they pounce on them and solicit for sex.

Bobos’ administrator Steve Ratemo admits that there has been an influx of flesh traders on Banda Street, but says the mandate of controlling sex workers belongs to the county government.

Ayub Akwa of Mojos says they are perturbed by their neighbour’s claims, as they have never raised any complaint.

“We are ready to listen to their issues, but how will we know if they do not tell us?” he asks.

Leaders at Jamia Mosque say they have raised the issues with the governor and expects him to address them soon.

It is not the first time Jamia and the pubs are knotted in wrangles.

In 2016, they protested over the licensing of a beer festival after the tents had already been set up. The Mosque Committee Secretary General Abdul Bary Hamid wrote to former Governor Evans Kidero to pull it down.

“The promotion is being done with malice and deliberately planned to hurt the sentiments of members of the Muslim community whose stand against the consumption and promotion of alcohol is well known,” read part of his letter.

The tents were pulled down hours before the event.


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