Since 1902

East Africa’s crime capital where lawbreaking is a way of life

By JOE KIARIE

Nairobi, Kenya: Has Nairobi slipped back to its inglorious past? This is a question that would naturally linger in the mind of anyone familiar with the turn of events within the Kenyan capital over the past decade.

Up until 2005, Nairobi had been branded East Africa’s unofficial crime capital, with daylight robbery a way of life. You literally took your life in your hands if you dared venture into certain no-go zones that were inhabited by street families, criminal gangs and drug addicts.

With the situation seemingly beyond repair, in came John Gakuo, the Town Clerk who removed street families, parking boys and hawkers from the streets, re-opened all backstreet alleys, cleaned and also lit up the city.

A massive tree planting and beautification campaign made Nairobi the real Green City in the Sun.

Then Police Commissioner, Major General Hussein Ali, joined in the effort and well-co-ordinated 24-hour police patrols within the city instilled a real sense of safety among members of the public.

Fast forward to 2014 and the city has slowly reverted to its old ignominious days.

Human waste

Hundreds of street families have recolonised their old haunts and a midday walk through some backstreet alleys, which are dark, littered with human waste and teeming with addicts daringly abusing all sorts of drugs, is a bad idea.

With their numbers soaring by the day, the families have expanded their territories and taken charge of various lanes along Kimathi, Koinange and other streets.

Despite the eyesore they present in the city, the street urchins equally pose a major security risk amid reports of involvement in co-ordinated robberies.

The highlight was during the past festive season when they robbed pedestrians and motorists in various parts of the city.

On December 26, a gang of seven urchins terrorising pedestrians at the Globe Cinema intersection turned chaotic after police shot one of them dead.

Various cases have been recently reported where urchins have used crude weapons and human waste to rob pedestrians and motorists.

Admitting the situation is dire, Members of Nairobi County Assembly early this month passed a Motion to compel the county government to address the issue.

The Motion seeks to have the urchins removed from the streets and further rehabilitated.

The MCAs were categorical that the street families had swollen and become an economic problem and social nightmare.

“This assembly urges the county government to move with speed and address this matter,” quipped Kayole South Ward representative Elizabeth Manyala, the mover of the Motion.

She demanded for a quick fix to the menace, as a permanent solution is sought. Under Gakuo, a street fund helped co-ordinate the removal of street families away from the city.