Crime in Nairobi is a ticking time bomb, Bruno Otiato Opines

Other than rebuilding the economy after Covid-19 and managing the 2022 succession politics, the government should seriously tackle the rising crime rate in Nairobi.

There are a number of things going on in the city that are a threat to security. First, the number of street boys and girls has gone up. On Uhuru Highway, for instance, you are most likely to see a group of young boys and girls walking between cars begging for money. Indeed, in the recent past, they have come up with very innovative begging techniques. They walk around with “kitchen towel-like fabrics”, which they use to clean cars stuck in traffic, expecting the owners to give them money in return. The good thing is that this lot is innocent and poses no harm, even when denied money after cleaning the cars.

Compared to Johannesburg in South Africa, Nairobi’s crime rate is still relatively low. Johannesburg was recently ranked ninth most dangerous cityin the world, with the crime level stranding at 89.1 per cent. This is according to Numbeo– a crowd-sourced global database of reported consumer prices, perceived crime rates, and quality of health care. The statistics showed that if you are driving in Johannesburg, the probability of you being robbed at gunpoint or mugged is 80.81 per cent, while the chances of your car getting stolen are 77 per cent. The probability that items in your car might be stolen is 81 per cent.

Nairobi might not be there yet, but the current crime trends in the city are not looking good. If you park your car in some parts of Nairobi’s central business district, for instance, you are likely to find some parts – side mirrors, headlights, batteries, car emblem – stolen. To say the truth, we may not be where Johannesburg is, but we are on a slippery slope all the same. Unless authorities work hard to reverse this, we may one day come to regret.

We will yearn for the days we used to walk around in Nairobi without having to care much. We will miss staying late in town without having to worry about our safety. Nairobi, once a beautiful and peaceful city, will be in the hands of gangs.

What, for instance, will become of these street children when they grow up? In my own estimation, the average age of these children is 15 years. In the next five years, when they are all grown and they have a sense of shame in them, do you think they will be walking in between cars doing the same old things they used to do? The answer is no. If the government fails to plan, most of them will turn into criminals.They will stop begging and start demanding. They will become hooked onto gang culture and knives, if they can’t afford guns.

Secondly, the number of bodaboda (motorbikes) is on the rise. Given it is illegal for motorbikes to operate in the city centre, what will become of bodaboda operators when the government finally decides to ban them from the city? Where will they go? I tend to think most of them will turn to organised crime. What is the government doing about this? If authorities choose to “wait and see”, then we are in trouble.

Thirdly, the number of unemployed youths is on the rise. This, in my opinion, is the most dangerous group of the three.High unemployment rate has forced most young people to live in informal settlements where they easily form or join militia groups. Considering that not many young people in Kenya like staying in the village and that devolution is not working in their favour, Kibera and Mathareslums will soon be too small to accommodate the ballooning number of unemployed youths in Nairobi. The result will either be class struggle where the poor wants to “eat the rich” or the rise in militia groups.

With all these, we won’t need a crime index to tell us that crime levels have gone up in Nairobi. You will either see it or experience it. We will yearn for the days we used to walk around in Nairobi without having to care much. We will miss staying late in town without having to worry about our safety. Nairobi, once a beautiful and peaceful city, will be in the hands of gangs. The number of murder cases in Nairobi will skyrocket. This city that belonged to us all will then belong to a few criminals.

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