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Mounted crime: From bodabodas they take their victims by surprise

NAIROBI
By Pkemoi Ng’enoh | July 23rd 2021

When a video clip of a pillion passenger riding on a boda boda snatched a mobile phone from a traffic police officer went viral recently, the country was captivated. Security agents were, however, quick to denounce the clip as a work of fiction.

But to two mothers of teenage sons in Kawangware, this is a reality too painful to bear. The residents of Kawanware describe this as a dangerous game where actors practice the dark art in the dead of night until they perfect it. And then death strikes.

The two teenagers, who are secondary school students, left their homes at Kawangware estate on July 19 mid-morning on a motorbike heading towards Ngong. They thought they had mastered the vice, but they were dead wrong.

At Ngong Road junction, they turned left as if heading towards the city centre, then just before the Junction Mall, the rider inched close to the pavement, having identified their victim who was speaking on his cell phone.

The pillion passenger grabbed the phone as his friend sped off looking for an option to turn back towards Kawangare. But the victim raised alarm, attracting members of the public and boda boda operators nearby, who responded in their numbers.

As fate would have it, the boys were cornered and clobbered by the mob, leaving them for dead just before police officers from Muthangari arrived at the bloody scene around noon. One of the boys succumbed to the soft tissue injuries he sustained while his colleague was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital in critical condition.

The Standard has established that the boy who survived the lynch mob was aged about 15, and was the one riding the motorbike while his friend and agemate who died was the one who allegedly snatched the phone. The two grew up within Wema in Kawangware. When we arrived at this particular scene, their mission gone awry was there for all to see.

A pair of white sneakers worn by the dead teenager was hanging from a power line running parallel to the road. We were told this is a common ritual performed whenever a dangerous criminal is killed as a sign of ‘honour among thieves’.

“That is a ritual around here when a gang member is killed. We know the boys very well. The one who survived is a Form Two student at St Andrews Secondary while his friend who was killed was also a student, but dropped out sometime last year,” a boda boda operator revealed.

The operator adds, “The gang involves young boys who usually train at night on how to snatch stuff like handbags and phones. One of them walks beside the road with a phone while two others follow on a motorbike to perform a mock snatch. They do that to sharpen their skills.”

Another source intimated that those who have perfected the art hire motorbikes to execute their missions. They pay between Sh500 and Sh1,000 a day to the unsuspecting motorbike owners. They then use the motorbikes for snatching missions within the city. 

Our sources indicate that the teen gang is spread out in the city. “They operate as far as Karen, Lavington, Kilimani and sometimes prowl along Argwings Kodhek Road.”

When The Standard traced the remaining boy’s mother deep in the sprawling Kawangware slums on Tuesday evening, she was still mourning the tragedy that befell her son. “He is my son; he was supposed to join Form Two next week. I don’t know about the one who died. My son is recovering well, that’s all I can say for now.” 

Too pained to talk anymore, the mother abandoned our interview. She was in the company of a friend who was comforting her. We traced the owner of the ill-fated boda boda at Muthangari police station. His motorcycle was impounded and he, too, was later arrested on suspicion that he had hired it out to thieves.

The boda boda owner told The Standard that he was a tenant in one of the houses owned by one of the teenager’s family. “The boy called me around 11 am while I was preparing to leave home and told me he wanted my motorbike to use with someone. When I stepped out, he had already picked the bike from where I usually park it,” he claimed.

According to him, his landlord’s son “usually borrows the motorbike on Sundays to treat his girlfriend. Sometimes he pays me Sh1,500 for me to take them around. On this day, I was called by police to come to the station after the incident.” 

An officer at the station, however, said they are holding the suspect to explain his relationship with the teenagers.

According to the police, the gangs involving teens are on the rise.

“They are very dangerous not only here, but also in other places. It is unfortunate that young boys are killed this way. Parents should closely monitor their children now because we are in an unforgiving society,” said the officer.

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