Dark pregnant clouds hung lowly as the once calm breezes turn into frenzied winds. I watch as carelessly littered papers swirl in the twisting dust devils, high and higher up the dark sky they go. The air is filled with noises of working engines, hooting cars, distant sirens, constant bangs from this and that corner of the street, sheets of metal blattering against each other and varrying roars of thunder. The sky would occasionally flash up with a brilliant white light, as if heavenly hosts were taking photos of the earth down below. It is 6pm and Kenyatta Avenue is noticeably empty – only few people are seen making their ways in haste – in fear of the imminent downpour. I see a few sedans waiting for the green lights, but the ever-in-a-hurry City Hopper buses ignorantly zoom past them and disappear into the Sarova Stanley corner, heading presumably to Ambassadeur(majority of you did not know this is how it is spelt and I bet any of you have been inside it) stage near National Archives.
I have never seen an evening as obscure as this one. Darkness has now covered the streets and weighty drops start falling causing people to scuttle for shelter, meanwhile attempting to cover their heads with merely whatever they held in their hands. I hurried into a Cafe Deli and decided to let the rain fall and die down. I hoped it would not last long as it was late and as we know, Nairobi is not a safe city to be walking in the night(the thought of this just made all my hairs literally stand – not because it was cold, because of pure fear).
See, I had had several ugly encounters with muggers in town, so it was only natural that nightfall in the city makes me a bit worried. Being mugged about 4 times is not a thing that you get used to and neither does it make you stronger(immune). It scares you more every-time it happens and makes you anxious.
So I sat next to glass wall, overlooking Kenyatta Avenue. My mind was so far away but yet so near. It was so full and yet so empty. My eyes then shifted their focus to the fog that formed on the glass when I breathed out. I continued to stare blankly, but flashes of my previous mugging encounters constantly stole their way into that empty space.
After waiting a while, the rain did not fall, and the drops seized. False alarm. “Wierd.” I thought to myself as I walked outside, into a mysterious blackness. My spirit was delighted when my nostrils filled with a satisfying earthy aroma that almost tempted me to stay a while longer and enjoy this most pleasing scent. But I remembered that I had a long way to go; down the valley of the shadow of death(that was indeed infested by death agents themselves) and up to bus station(or Afya – the famous green building down there) where I would get matatus to take me to South B. That thought gave me another shiver.
It was now 7:26 pm. Boy-child is pacing down Moi Avenue on the side of Kenya Cinema when he hears a man’s voice call out, “Weh psst pssst!” I turn to look and could not quite see who was calling out – only people going about their usual businesses. A few steps on, I feel someone’s hand hold my right shoulder tightly, pulling me to a stop and saying,”Weh kijanaa si ninakuita?” I am petrified. I feel my mouth run dry – no saliva. My heart has stopped beating and is now throbbing. I turn my head with hope that this is just a friend of mine pulling a prank on me.
My hopes were valid, or were they…
This guy was just a bit taller than I was. Even in very little lighting, I was able to see his face. He was young and light-skinned with huge bloodshot eyes, a small neat beard and I noticed dreadlocks from his hoodie. He had a skinny physique(the red hoodie he wore looked oversized) and had surprisingly clean clothes and shoes. He was not a thug. Generally, he was neat and clean. “Maybe I know him from somewhere…??” I kept on thinking to myself. The gaze he had on me however nullified my thoughts, and I knew I was going to die tonight. Have you ever met someone who stares at you dead straight into your eyes so confidently you feel as if they can see your soul? Or have you ever seen pure hostility in a man’s eyes? That’s what I saw my readers.
We’re standing just outside family bank Moi Avenue, near Harambee Avenue.
“Niachie za food brathe.”
“Sina leo bro. Labda kesho.” I said in a rather shaken voice.
“Huwezi kosa. Kijana msafi kama wewe anakosaje doh?” he inquires, while looking at my pockets and bag.
“Aki walai sina. Nina fare tu. Ningekuwa nayo siwezi kunyima. Sisi ni ma-bro.” I say trying to appeal to his emotional side. But the guy has zero emotion.
After back and forth for about 3 minutes, I am less frightened and he is getting more irritated. I got fed up and reached to my pocket and got out a Ksh. 50 note which I handed to him.
“Sasa nimekupea fare yangu. Itabaki nimeongea na donda wa mtaa anibebe na deni.” I follow up as I begin to walk away.
“Na za jeshi bro. Unajua tuko wengi. Hii haiwezi tutosha.” He is now following me, attempting to hold my hand to slow me down but I step on the gas pedal further.
“Sina doh ingine wewe! Tosheka ama urudishe. Mimi sio baba yenu!! NKT!!!” In anger and frustration I increase my pace, now almost crossing over to the other side of Moi Avenue.
“Na usiongee matope brathe.. mi nitakudunga kisu… haina haja nikuumize bure… ”
Did he mention kisu? This is the first instance they are mentioning something that can pierce my skin. At this point I am just about to pee in my pants. My knees are extremely weak. But good Lord never abandons He’s child. My adrenaline rush commands me to activate flight mode. I however do not want to run in town like a scared chicken so I pace even more, almost literally walking on air. All this time, I am hoping someone would notice that something was wrong, and came to my rescue aki because this guy just will not leave me alone.
While he’s still hot on my heels(I can see him from the corner of my teary eye), “Unajifanya kujua sindio? Nitakufunza… ”
I am just a second away from sprinting now.
Sensing that he is losing me and he might be noticed, he begins to slow down and eventually stops. He then threatens, “..na ujue tuko wengi. Wanakuona ata uhepee wapi. Tutakupata tu..”
I will not continue from there. Just know I ran straight into a mat, and the first thing I did when I got home was soak my pants in JIK.
Based on my encounters – and of my friends, here’s my advice:
- Thugs in Nairobi can literally smell whether you are new in the streets or not – it doesn’t matter foreigner or resident, they will know you are here for the first time, and they will welcome you warmly. So while walking, don’t go marveling at the “sky-scrappers” and looking confused – because YOU WILL BE MUGGED.
- They know whether you have money or not. This is regardless of your dressing code. You will only be fooling yourself if you think dressing like a ‘chokoraa’ will save you.
- Avoid City centre aki. If you don’t have to be at National Archives, don’t be there – it’s not the only place you can meet in Nairobi. Same goes for Bus Station area, Kenya Cinema, Railways, Machakos Bus Station(or the entire Landhies road) among others, especially the hours of 5 – 11 PM. That does not however mean you walk around like you own the streets during any time of the day, YOU WILL BE MUGGED.
- You have a phone yes? Well, quick fact: Over 60% of Kenyans have smartphones, and others have phones. Muggers in Nairobi have an appetite for these gadgets. Word of advice, if your phone can fit in your bag or deep pocket, please keep it there. If it can’t hire courier services to carry for you. JUST DON”T CARRY IT ON YOUR HANDS as if it’s the only phone in town. Btw, put it on silent mode and don’t text or pick phone calls while in crowded places.
- Think you are safe in that car? I have news for you; you are not safe! They will pull your earrings from the window and take off your wig and run with it. So if you have those bluetooth things people put in their ears, pull up your window lest you want to donate it forcefully.
- If you can leave your laptop at home, the better.
- Spend as less time in this city as you can. The more you stay, the more the eyes that will see you and you never know who is watching.
- Please stay at home on Sunday, or visit another city. Just don’t come to Nairobi.
- If you are stopped by someone you do not know(no matter how nice they look), do not stand. If they sit next to where you are seated and start a weird conversation, leave. I pretended to be deaf and mute, only gesturing with my hands and the idiot went away.
- Follow my advise.
First, I’m so sorry you went through that, though its like a right of passage in Nairobi. It shouldn’t be; its wrong,its highly annoying and just plain evil. It can also leave you with PTSD thus affecting your life as a whole, and the worst thing is;either some guy stands by and waits for it to happen before “acting like they care” or just dont care and walk away. It’s a major fail in security… It make one wonder, if this is the city,which is basically the epicenter of security…. What would happen to you in the suburbs?