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Ghetto Radio's King Kafu on why crime does not pay

My Man


King Kafu... How did you get this name? And what’s your real name anyway?

Growing up, I liked football and played the fullback position. My friends likened me to Cafu, the Brazilian former professional footballer. Later when I joined Ghetto Radio, my boss felt I deserved to be called King for how well I did my job. However my name is Nicholas Cheruiyot.   How did you join Ghetto Radio? In 2006 Robert Ochola, a neighbour,  had come to bail me out of jail having spent a year for robbery with violence. He sat me down and asked me what it would take for me to quit this life of crime before I found myself dead. I told him to find me a job, and he did.    I started off cutting business cards, calendars, magazines and posters for Sh100 per day, then worked as a carpenter at the city mortuary making coffins. He urged me however to stay put for an opening that would be showing up at a radio station yet to be launched.    When Ghetto Radio was launched, I went in as a messenger in 2007. Coincidentally, when he approached me, I had already decided on turning a new leaf having seen   how my friends were being killed. I did not want to be a statistic.    How did you end up a presenter? As we passed time between deliveries, we would chat at the balcony. All the while, Rapture the Scientist, who I had once met in jail, was recording our conversations and playing them on air.    As a result that segment that aired our conversations got many hits that I was called in to be a presenter. I was trained on the job, and started the drive show —the most listened to show — before being promoted to the morning breakfast show that I currently host.   How did you get into crime? I was wrongly convicted of a crime I did not commit, so I reasoned since crime or no crime I would still end in jail, why not get jailed for a crime I actually committed.   What crime was this? A robbery. I am a morning person. On this day in 2002, I woke up to a crime in my neighbourhood. I was well on my way to look for some manual labour to fend for myself when the police arrested me and ten other young guys, including my older brother, alleging that one of us had stolen a professional camera, money and a phone.    On arrival at Pangani Police Station, the camera owner, a sports journalist, identified me in a line up as the thief and the next thing I knew my fingerprints were being taken and I ended up at the Industrial Area cell for six months. As I served my term, my other brother found out who had committed the crime, reported and had them arrested, but that did not mean freedom for us. Singer Juacali’s brother later bailed me out on a cash bail.    What about your brother? The money was not enough to bail us both. So we had agreed that since I was the younger one and had a full life ahead of me, I should go ahead as more money was sought to bail him out. He died shortly after he was bailed out following complications from a disease he caught while in prison.   So then your life in crime began? Yes. I harboured the bitterness for the  wrongful conviction and a dead brother. On my release, I linked up with a friend with whom we attended jam sessions with and started snatching people’s bags; chains, watches, wallets you name it. After a while, I felt the need to upgrade. My team and I shifted our focus to the use of guns for carjackings.  The gun we had, had been given to me by a friend. The gun had a faulty firing pin and could not actually fire any bullets but inflicting the fear was enough.   Besides carjacking, we would raid   fundraising events.   Once we collect the spoils, we would share out among the team with me as the leader taking the lion’s share.   It seems you were in business, complete with a team, a leader and financial structures. Did you have a mentor to teach you the ropes of the trade? You mentor yourself into it. It is really about body language. For instance, someone walking the streets with valuables tends to be tense, fidgety and very self aware, constantly touching their pockets or bag for reassurance that the possession is still there.   And how did you deal with fear of the unknown? Alcohol, just enough to ward off the fear, never too much that you cannot perform.   So how did you perform? On a good day, we would gather up to Sh500,000, on a bad one even Sh100 was applaudable.   You speak of a team, how did you assemble it? We just gathered as friends who attended jam sessions.   Taking you back to your childhood days, would you refer to them as the ‘good old days’? Barely. I was orphaned in Class Four and taken in by my aunt who mistreated me. When I got to Class Seven, I had had enough and I dropped out of school and started dealing in scrap metal. The little I would get from the sales, I bought second hand clothes and hawked them in my neighbourhood. I would then attend jam sessions where I met some of the people I got into crime with.   Future plans? To save as many youths from a life of crime through the project, ‘From the grave to the ground’, where we visit prisons and talk to them while we take them the necessities they need. Truth be told, prison life is brutal.

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