By DANN OKOTH
KISUMU, KENYA: It is a little past six in the evening and a handful of patrons gather at a popular pub at the heart of Kisumu’s Central Business District.
Such occasions, common among the middle-class, are often a noisy affair replete with chitchat and bravado as friends catch up on the day’s events and recent achievements.
But today, the mood is rather sombre as the revellers hurriedly gulp down their drinks — each continually looking at their watches and glance over their shoulders — as if afraid of something.
Apparently everybody is in a hurry to leave town. Just then a man sitting next to me, who is visiting Kisumu from Nairobi receives a message from his wife. It reads: “kik iduog late estate tinde ok ber” which translates to “don’t come home late the estate is nowadays not safe.”
- 1 Suspected arson attack as dormitory razes at Kisumu Boys
- 2 Port readies for big vessels as dredging work begins
- 3 Medics’ strike slows justice for abused victims
- 4 NSL: Kisumu Hot Stars thrash Gusii as Soy United hold Kisumu All Stars in Kisumu
This is just a hint of what the residents are going through as escalating insecurity alters Kisumu’s socio-economic systems.
The city is a ghost town by eight in the evening — literally — as marauding gangs terrorise residents, carjacking, robbing and raping with impunity.
The police seem overwhelmed by the rising crime or are complicit in the reign of terror or both. And President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned security chiefs from all over the country to State House in efforts to stem rising insecurity, residents are crying out for help.
The terrifying, daring and embolden thugs have attacked homes and residents even in plush estates.
Last week, heavily armed thugs carjacked two women at Millimani, less than 200 meters from the police headquarters as they visited a friend—robbed and gang-raped them before escaping in their car.
The incident was reported at the Kisumu Central Police Station, but no suspect has been arrested. And last Thursday, two gangsters robbed the Bata Depot in the city’s industrial area of Sh100,000, office accessories and mobile phones-besides a series of carjacking and robberies in the city within the same week. Gang raping of women has been the hallmark of this new wave of crime.
According to Dr Michael Amolo, the Medical Director at Aga Khan Hospital Kisumu, two women were recently admitted to the hospital after they were carjacked and raped.
“In the last two weeks we received two women who said they were carjacked and raped. We also received four victims of gun attack after thugs ambushed them while attending a seminar at a hotel,” he says.
Dr Amolo says the hospital has been receiving gunshot victims as violent crime escalates in Kisumu county and its environs.
“We have received quite a number of such victims but I would not be able to give conclusive figures at the moment until I compile them. You may have to speak to other hospitals as well because not all the victims come here for treatment,” he says.
What is more worrying is the fact that the gangs are composed of young men, many in their late teens or early 20s. Victims say they are also unprofessional and nervous—and would shoot their victims with the slightest provocation.
Bars and other entertainment premises have been targeted by the thugs whereby they hold patrons at gun point and rob them of cash and other belonging—over 12 bars have been attacked in the last two weeks alone, including a bar belonging to Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo.
“I was having drinks with friends at a pub in Your Choice Bar in Okore estate over the weekend when six armed men stormed the bar and ordered everyone to lie,” says Paul Owour an insurance broker in the city.
“They frisked pockets and took everything from us including mobiles, laptops, and ATM cards, before ransacking the bar and stealing cash and items valued at around Sh300, 000,” says Owuor.
For Owuor it was a double tragedy because he was a victim of carjacking and robbery last month when marauding youths blocked his way near Jalaram Hospital hacked him with machetes before stealing everything from him, leaving him for dead. Car hire companies and taxi drivers are also targeted. The thugs target ATM cards, which they use to withdraw money from their victims’ bank accounts. Mobile phones, laptop computers and household valuables are also targeted. The wave of crime has seen even prominent personalities targeted - the latest being shooting of Kisumu businessman and politician Shem Kwega and his wife. Not spared are funeral gatherings, where the gangs storm and rob mourners.
“I was in a neighbour’s house in Gudka estate to condole with him over the death of his child when eight armed people stormed the house to demand the funeral collections,” recalls Bundi, a victim who we can only identify by his last name.
“Some people escaped over the wall behind the house but I was not lucky as they hit me with a blunt object. I was surprised they were young men because they were rather feeble. However, I realised they were armed and submitted. They gave a thorough beating before robbing me of everything,” he says.
The lakeside city, known for its robust nightlife has literally fallen into the hands of criminals. No one is safe here and residents are seeking answers from the police.