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Pata potea: How 23 KDF servicemen conned business lady over Sh3 million

FEATURES

Getting to the home of Ruth Wairimu in Gema village, Gilgil sub-county is not a walk in the park.

The 35-kilometre journey is filled with dust sweeping through the unforgiving rocky and thorny terrain. On arrival, we find Wairimu in despair in her unkempt compound.

Her dream was to put up a decent home. But the dream went up in smoke and now her incomplete house is a stark reminder of her fall from grace to grass.

“This was my dream house. I started constructing it in 2019, but it has stalled with no money to complete it and with no husband or able family members willing to support me,” says Wairimu. Clinging onto her seven-month-old baby, the single mother looks up at the roof that clearly has gaping holes. The openings are testimony of her frustrations and penury.

“I sometimes share this unfenced compound with wild animals. Snakes are a part of us, and, frequently, I do not sleep because I worry they may attack and kill us,” says the 38-year-old woman before leading us outside the house.

She drags and sits on an empty water canister as she narrates how she ended up in this conundrum. In a nutshell, Wairimu was once monied, but that is now water under the bridge and the woman is a pauper leading a hand-to-mouth life.

A successful businesswoman by her standards, Wairimu started in 2019 by opening a nightclub at Gilgil Junction where Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) officers were her regular customers, friends and even confidants.

Shylock business

With her business booming, Wairimu had another idea to make more money as a shylock. “The officers heard I was lending money to my friends. Some of them expressed interest,” she says.

One of the officers, a Kenya Army Lent Corporal at Kenyatta Barracks, Gilgil (name withheld for legal reasons) borrowed Sh450,000. This was on February 5, 2020, and the agreement was that the soldier was to refund the amount with an interest of 20 per cent.

As a surety, he committed to leave his military identity card (ID). “Suddenly, more and more officers started coming for money forcing me to apply for a loan from my local bank,” she says.

By October of that year, Wairimu said she had lent over Sh3 million to 23 KDF soldiers whose reasons for borrowing included clearing funeral expenses, paying school fees and starting business projects, among others.

When the loans matured for payment, the officers allegedly vanished even though they had left their identification cards. Wairimu recalls how they ignored her calls or sometimes switched off their mobile phones.

Luckily after a long chase, the businesswoman found one of the officers (name withheld), who had borrowed Sh426,000.

Wairimu claims when she tried to pursue him, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers came and coerced her to surrender the soldier’s ID. He then went missing.

Shocked at the turn of events, Wairimu shared her tribulations with colleagues who advised her to report the matter to the police.

She went police and narrated her story, only to be referred to Gilgil Barracks where the military police asked her to record a statement.

“The military promised to deal with my case because they called all the officers involved, who could not produce their IDs. They advised me not to go to the police or court and promised to ensure I got my money back,” recounts Wairimu.

Thereafter, however, her access to the military was limited, and her constant calls went unanswered. One day, she was told never to call again.

Another officer (name withheld) who had borrowed Sh450,000, approached Wairimu on August 31, 2021. She said he tried to convince her to surrender his ID.

“He wanted to leave me his combat uniform in return for the ID, but since I was a bit wise, I urged him to put it in writing,” states the woman.

Other officers she had lent money to started threatening her, demanding their IDs, forcing Wairimu to report the matter at Gilgil Police Station, which was recorded under OB 33/21/9/2021.

Retain IDs

According to Wairimu, she was advised by the station’s commander (OCS) to retain the IDs until the matter is resolved.

Later, the OCS asked her to surrender the military IDs to the station – a request she complied with. Wairimu claims that when the OCS was transferred, the IDs were handed over to the military.

“I called the officers, but they did not seem worried. The one who left me his uniform said I would not take him anywhere. I was left frustrated, and to date, I have no money,” she laments.

Meanwhile, to recover the loan she secured, the bank auctioned her properties, among them a car, two plots and valuables in her bar. The move left her completely exposed and she closed shop. Her daughter who was to join Form One last year is at home for lack of fees. Stroke set in due to the pressure.

“I was diagnosed with a stroke, and I am not sure if I will survive. I have no money for food, and occasionally depend on neighbours for support. All I want is my money back,” she says.

Although Wairimu is willing to forgive the officers, she is appealing to President William Ruto who is the Commander-In-Chief to intervene and ensure justice is served.

When The Nairobian visited Gilgil Police Station on September 4, 2023, the Sub County Police Commander (SCPC) Francis Tumbo categorically said he would not comment on matters involving military personnel At the KDF Gilgil Barracks, we were referred to Department of Defence (DoD) headquarters. We wrote an email on September 6, 2023, which was acknowledged followed by reminders on September 11 and October 5.

The Public Affairs Office at Ulinzi House in their response on October 30, 2023 confirmed that Wairimu made a report sometime in September 2022.

“She reported that a number of KDF personnel had entered into a shylock arrangement and defaulted payment,” reads the response.

The DoD confirmed that in line with KDF regulations, investigations were done and all who were found culpable were charged and the case disposed of summarily.

DOD stated that shylocking is prohibited in KDF and service men found engaging in it are dealt with in accordance with the KDF Act and the Defence Forces Standing Orders.

The military, however, did not state clearly what was done to the 23 officers and if they were dismissed or punished.

“Notably, Wairimu engaged the service members privately, thus highly recommending that she pursues justice through civil police and court,” added the response.

 

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