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Residents question frequent transfers of police in Karen

By By JOE KIARIE | Mar 8th 2014 | 4 min read


Nairobi, Kenya: The leafy Karen suburb in Nairobi has for a long time been the residence of choice for Kenya’s wealthy.

The sustained sense of country life the neighbourhood offers around modern, urban centres and facilities is second to none.

But residents here are a worried lot. They have over the past eight months lived at the mercy of gangsters who strike audaciously in broad daylight with relative ease.

Today, an advisory warning residents not to walk alone, wear jewellery and carry other valuables while jogging stands. Around the luxurious colonial-style houses set on well-manicured lawns lurk muggers who readily relieve their victims of such items. That is what one of Kenya’s hitherto safest zones has been reduced to.

Within the past three months, 24 crimes have been recorded in Karen. Tom Mboya, the Karen and Lang’ata District Association (KLDA) vice chairman, says many other cases, some possibly involving sexual assault, have gone unreported.

“Criminal activities have been extensive especially in the past few weeks, with break-ins being the most common,” he states. Apparently, armed gangsters have been roaming the area in cars and on motorbikes on espionage missions while at the same time robbing unsuspecting pedestrians and motorists.

The upsurge in crime dates back to mid last year, when cases of mugging quickly developed into house break-ins. Last July, a two-man gang armed with a pistol robbed several residents, among them two women who lost money, watches and jewellery while walking along Mbagathi Ridge and Forest Lane respectively. The robbers were using a black Toyota vehicle registration number KBN 387Y.

In September, several cases were reported of a gang robbing joggers, cyclists and motorists using a black Toyota Fielder registration number KAB 387Y, and two motorcycles.

“Leave your jewellery at home while jogging or cycling; the robbers seem to be very interested in jewellery. Be safe!” KLDA warned residents in a public communiqué.

Around that time, a retired British military officer was shot dead at his son’s home in Lang’ata. Amid security meetings called after the incidents, a kidnap was to later occur along Mbagathi Ridge on October 7 last year, at the same time a white saloon car registration number KAU 145X was reported to have been trailing motorists.

Last month, a resident was robbed at gun point along Fair Acres Road by three men on a motorbike registration number KMCS 256S.

In between these robberies, numerous break-ins were executed. Most prominent was the November 2013 three-hour torture of former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi and his wife by thugs who raided his Rhino Park home and made away with guns, cash and jewellery.

An elite police unit was deployed in the area following the robbery. On February 19, armed robbers injured Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo and his wife at their home in Hardy Estate. Three days later, Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to Kenya Wahidur Rahman was injured during a robbery in his residence.

On February 28, a retired Kenya Air Force pilot, David Macharia, was found murdered and his body thrown in a septic tank within his compound in the same vicinity.

And there seems to be no let up. At 2.30am last Tuesday, a white saloon car with three men claiming to be police officers stopped outside a residence in Karen.

Wearing police uniforms, they hurriedly demanded access to the compound but could not present their identity documents when prompted to do so by a private security guard. Realising they were robbers, the guard raised the alarm just as one of the men tried to scale the wall, forcing them to drive away.

Such tactics by criminals have become way too common, with gangsters successfully executing their missions with relative ease while disguised as Kenya Power, Nairobi Water Company or security personnel. “Along Silanga Road, where I live, there have been two or three such incidents over the past three weeks,” says Mr Mboya.

Protest letter

Locals blame the rising insecurity on the police, who they say have failed to protect them. They are particularly infuriated by the frequent and simultaneous transfer of officers in charge of Karen and Hardy police stations, with crimes peaking every time an OCS is transferred. Ironically, Karen Police Station has had six OCSs in just five years.

The Standard on Saturday has learnt that last January’s transfer of Inspector Stanley Gitobu after just four months in charge of the station angered the residents so much that they wrote a protest letter to Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo. They are yet to receive a response.

“Most of the OCSs are transferred just after they have begun to understand the area and establish a working relation with residents,” says KLDA chairman Erastus Mwongera. “It has been hard to maintain contacts and the robbers are capitalising on this.”

Relations between most residents and the police also seem to be strained, explaining the many unreported crime cases. “Most residents do not trust the police as they rarely act on crimes. They just issue abstracts and rarely conduct investigations or follow-ups. Response is also very poor,” says a resident who sought anonymity.

While most of the crimes have been linked to inside jobs, he says this is a fallacy and police have been pointing to this theory to dodge responsibility. “There has rarely been tangible evidence of inside jobs. The police are saying this to shift blame,” he states.

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