He comes out like a normal person walking in the streets of Diani town in Kwale County. With a blue sack stuffed with papers and traveling documents on his back, Joshua is a disturbed man.
He has nowhere to sleep nor money for food and for the better part of his visit to the country, he has depended on well-wishers for food, cigarettes and a place to lay his head. Joshua is from Germany and with his less understanding of the English language. He tells The Nairobian that he arrived in the country on May 20, 2016.
“I came from Germany, then Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where I took a flight to Mombasa Airport then down here in Diani with a matatu,” he reads from a scribbled paper. We are forced now to use a translator who tells us that he believed too much in a Kenyan friend who made away with all that he had. The interview does not last for long as he refuses the first translator and calls a second one, Jeff Martin.
Through Martin, Joshua says that he gave his phone and all ATMs to a local man who could withdraw the money whenever they needed.
“I really believed that man and gave all my ATMs and he was at liberty to withdraw the amount that I had sent him to, I later realised that all money had been withdrawn,” he says.
The German tourist added that he used the same man to buy a motorbike but to his surprise, the logbook did not have his name. He is now forced to follow friends to help him and adds that he cannot follow one more than two times.
“I’m also forced to come here to Rongai to see fellow white men assist me but I am not a thief,” he further said.
Asked if he is ready to go back to Germany, he said that his three months and 10 days visa was still active and until it expires, he will still remain in the country. He says that he still has his return ticket. At one time, he also claimed to be under mental health medication but which was taken away by the alleged friend-turned-foe.
Daniel Ongechi, a watchman at Rongai Restaurant, where Joshua frequents, said that there was a time he came with a woman and when asked for money he said he had nothing.
“The next day, he came and slept under that tree and when we chased him, he said he didn't have a place to sleep so we left him. Sometimes, he comes here to eat leftovers and even baths using customers’ water,” said Ongechi.
He added that they are now forced to look after him while sleeping. Some police officers intimated that the foreigner is a very rich person in his country and before he went berserk, he used to spend Sh5 million per week partying.
The area OCPD Benjamin Rotich said that the tourist has a mental health problem and wants to refer the case to the immigration department.
“The foreigner has a mental problem and the case should be referred to the department of immigration who have the mandate of deporting and repatriating anybody who might have overstayed in the country.
“We are doing all effort to contact immigration at border points or Nairobi who are working with aliens to see if he is here legally or illegally,” said the OCPD.
And Joshua is not alone. Cases of men going mad after sexual encounters with prostitutes are high. In the business of prostitution in coastal towns, foreigners, preferably whites, are a high-value target and sex workers will go to any lengths to win them. And this trade is brutal, ruthless and unforgiving. Some sex workers fight over clients, poison each other and even reach out to witchdoctors to help them ward off competition.
The tales of how men and women are in pursuit of money abound in Mombasa, Malindi, Watamu and Diani where mental illness is partly attributed to prostitution, homosexuality and lesbianism.
Marylyne Laini, a campaigner for sex workers’ rights, says those involved in these sexual activities have predisposed to mental health challenges because of the experiences they go through. Apart from visiting witchdoctors and suffering from stigma, they are violently abused by clients who refuse to pay, or at times forced to undergo rituals to cleanse themselves.
Through her Nkoko Iju Africa, a community-based organisation (CBO) of which she is the director, Laini says since last year, they have registered over 100 cases of mental health among sex workers.This year alone, according to Laini, five sex workers have died as a result of stress-related ailments. Laini estimates that there are over 4, 000 registered sex workers in Nyali and Kisauni combined.
“Mental health disturbs a lot of sex workers because of the stigma, violence they face from clients who abuse and refuse to pay them sometimes. So they start thinking, am I a lesser person?,” says Laini about the dark secrets and dangers of sex work.
The Nairobian sought a first hand experience from a sex worker and caught up with one Mtesi (not her real name) who operates along Moi Avenue near Casablanca Night Club.
The woman says there is full-throttle competition in the business on selling flesh, especially to Europeans who offer better terms. Sometimes, her colleagues, she reveals, use love potions to win the foreigners. As a result, Mtesi says, it is easy to go insane over prostitution if one is always scooping white clients and snatching others colleagues in the business.
“I trust no one in this business. These sex workers you see will go to any length to eliminate their competition. You either get poisoned or get insane through witchcraft. So I operate solo,” says Mtesi.
She confessed to seeking witch-doctor services to protect herself from enemies but not to secure portions to influence clients. Mtesi reveals that old sex workers are routinely phased out by young beautiful girls who not only offer sex but also escort services and quality time to clients.
“I am young and beautiful. I don’t need to use a love potion to get a client, but I have sought protection from a witch doctor because I have seen what can happen out here if you don’t take care of yourself,” she claims.
Nakato* , 26, from Uganda says there is a lot of hatred in the business that the one you presume a friend will easily kill you if you prove to be a competitor. Nakato has been involved in several fights with her colleagues over foreign clients with some turning into legal battles.
She suffered a severe cut on the left cheek after her competitor hit her with a beer bottle accusing the Ugandan lass of stealing away her Italian boyfriend. The assault case is still pending in court.
The sassy Nakato said that it is worth the fight because some of the white clients are good tippers and also treat them like queens. She says some of the sex workers who have played their cards right and hooked with moneyed foreigners are well taken care of, showered with gifts and tipped well.
Maggy* considers herself lucky. For several years, the 30-year-old was involved in an affair with Italians and had a child with one of them who sends her money for upkeep and always spends time with her when he comes for holidays.
“I don’t have to stand in the street to get money anymore. I played my cards right and ended up with an Italian boyfriend. He takes good care of our son and occasionally sends me money and gifts and when he is around, we spend quality time with him,” brags Maggy.
According to Laini, despite the existence of witchcraft in the business, most of the sex workers go insane because of rituals undertaken by their clients. Laini says most of the clients engage in rituals with the sex workers because they are advised to cleanse themselves by sleeping with a woman.
“We have had incidents where clients take the sex-workers and perform rituals with them and after that, the women become mad. In one incident, we were told how a client forced a sex worker to remove a corpse from a fridge, wash and suck it while being held at gunpoint,” says Laini.
She, however, says many of the sex workers are abandoning witchcraft following a sustained awareness campaign by her CBO, which is encouraging the women to start small businesses.
“Initially, the girls were deeply into witchcraft, but after we started talking to them, the practice is on a decline,” observes Laini.
The unsuspecting visitors, more so men, end up smitten by the fun and pleasure-filled Voi town. Adventurous newcomers fall into the same trap of this charming town’s allure and sleazy side. This has persisted despite locals’ cautionary stock phrase “Voi Yavua”.
Loosely translated, the expression means the coastal railway town is a fisher of men who throw caution to the wind and move in headlong. Gullible and pleasure-loving men keen to sample the nectar and spice of life with abandon end up being ensnared by local comfort women.
Voi town is strategically located along the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway. It is also the commercial hub of Taita-Taveta County and a hot-spot for transactional sex. Voi has had a reputation as a major rest point for travelers since the days of long-distance merchants who plied the route from the port of Mombasa to the hinterland.
Admittedly, Taita women are said to be irresistible owing to their bewitching beauty and dexterity in taming men with copious doses of love coupled with their exceptional culinary skills. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there have never been so many beauties at one place like Taita. A significant number of the women are not only natural light-skinned but also highly respectful, attributes which many men easily fall for.
Some men are said to never remember to return home after they are hypnotized and fall into love with local women. They get sucked into the town’s fun and pleasure hook, line and sinker: hence the town’s nickname ‘Voi Yavua’.
As for Taita’s only fascinating and swanky town, Voi also enjoys the pet name ‘the town that never sleeps and is a major stopover for day and night travelers headed to Coast or upcountry. When darkness sets in, dozens of skimpily dressed ladies of the night descend on the town’s central business district in search of male clients.
Clad in micro mini-skirts, the commercial female sex workers take over the town’s nightlife with a bang. They come from informal settlements like Mwakingali ya Wanawake, Mwakingali ya Wanaume, Maweni, Tanzania, Bondeni, Kariakor and Sofia among others and hang around various popular nightspots where they lay in wait for men soliciting for sex.
They become hunters of men in an area once thrust into global fame by the legendary man-eaters of Tsavo – a pair of lions in the Tsavo National Park, which attacked the Kenya-Uganda railway construction workers.
The town is also strategically situated at a major international road intersection connecting it not only with several other local towns and rural areas of the Taita-Taveta County but also with Tanzania.
Long-distance drivers plying the highway and other visitors flock to the town daily and they become easy prey for the daring angels of the night. The twilight girls use every trick in the book to lure men into sex, wearing heavy make-up, tight and revealing clothes.
At night the town’s red-light zone, which ironically neighbours the Taita-Taveta ACK diocesan headquarters, is abuzz with sex-oriented transactions undeterred by the compelling aura of religiosity surrounding the area.
Like bees in search of nectar, the sex workers swarm the town with the period between 6 pm and 10 pm being the peak time.