First of all, let me say this: I love Kenya and I feel very safe here with my host family and local friends. The last thing I want to do is paint a negative picture of the beautiful place that I call home. But to be completely honest, there is a major problem with crime in Kenya. Nairobi has been nicknamed “Nairobbery” because of how common theft and robbery have become. Even the police are often involved in crime due to high levels of corruption.
Since I arrived in Nairobi five months ago, I have come in contact with crime in a few forms. Today I was pick-pocketed and my phone was stolen. A friend of mine was held at gunpoint and her laptop was taken by thieves as she walked in her neighborhood. Another friend was captured by police after he refused to give them money, held for three days with no food or water, accused of being a terrorist and then drugged (yes, drugged by police). Every Kenyan has stories about their wallet being stolen or their home or car broken into. Personally, I have been the victim of a few robbery attempts, one that I will share about in detail here (don’t worry, it’s actually kinda funny).
Abby (my fellow student) and I were taking a matatu from home to church last Sunday morning. As soon as we got in and sat down, a man entered and settled into the vacant seat next to me. I was instantly suspicious because he sat next to me when the rest of the matatu was empty – something that people rarely do. He also had a large backpack that was flat and empty, which is a typical tool for robbery (you’ll see why in a moment).
A few moments later, a girl got on the matatu that was lost, so I explained to her how to get where she wanted to go (and stopped clutching my bag momentarily). When she was getting out of the matatu I suddenly became aware of the guy next to me again and realized he had his large bag covering part of my arm and the corner of my bag, and his hand was partially into it! He was trying to rob me! I pulled my bag away suddenly and looked at him, and he got spooked. The poor guy caught me on the wrong day…I said in a loud voice for the whole (now full) matatu to hear: “I am a visitor in your country, and this is how you welcome me? By trying to steal from me?” Then I turned around to address all the people in the matatu and pointed to the man, saying: “This man is a thief!”
The guy motioned for the conductor to let him out of the matatu immediately – he was nervous and embarrassed. As he stepped out I said, again loud enough for everyone to hear, “I hope you are going to church so you can repent for your sins.” The whole matatu was in shock, in disbelief that this Mzungu girl confronted the thief. I was a bit worried about how people might react, until an older Mama looked a me, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up! I was satisfied in my small piece of justice.
Check out my previous post on matatu culture here: https://kenyafeelit.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/getting-around-a-lesson-in-matatus/