By Purity Kiguatha, Operations Executive, AAYMCA
Last week, I witnessed what I hope will be my last highway robbery in Nairobi. At about 8 pm on the roundabout of University Way in Kenya, I saw a young man sprinting along the pedestrian walk, jump dangerously over the flower bed into on coming traffic, slip his hand into an unsuspecting pick up truck (the window was not even rolled down half way) and grabbed that passenger’s phone. It happened so fast as usual and for a split of a second I contemplated running the thug down since he had to cross in front of my car.
The pedestrians waiting to cross were as dumbfounded as I was, the pick up truck driver just continued on his journey am sure considering it a loss to give chase and also because he was right at the front of the of the line of the roundabout. There was a traffic police officer not too far ahead from where all this happened. My heart beat so fast and I argued with myself, knocking him down would have led to a long story with the cops, would I have been willing to take him to hospital? I am not willing to be a hit and run sort of driver so I would have had to take up the consequences. I was not ready, I chickened out and probably today the young man is out robbing someone else.
Today I am thinking about that young man, and the young men (allegedly members of a gang) in a video shared some years back shot in broad day light by police men in front of a crowd, about the other young men positioned in highways all across Africa, hawk eyed waiting for an unsuspecting victim. Is the money really worth the risk? I am thinking about the adult men and women whose faces we see once in a while in Government PR exercises on the fight on corruption stealing amounts that send your head spinning, how their crimes are as stealth as those of the young robber last night.
This morning on my way to work my preferred radio station was having a debate on corruption. A debate we have become all too familiar with and sadly the more we hear it the more desensitized we become. The panelists on the show shared a story about a girl in school where food from home is not allowed. How the mother helps the girl hide chapatis at the bottom of her suitcase. The mother of this girl gives her 50 shillings to bribe the guards if during the search the food is discovered. I am working hard not to imagine what will happen to the young girl if the guards are greedy and consider other ways to get paid for hiding chapatis. However I will not digress.
There is a Kikuyu saying, there is no thief and the look out, the incidence last week reminded me of that. I felt bad that I was paralysed once again, its not the first time when the crime has take place just in front of me and I have had a chance to do something and did not. Fear is real. The fear to speak out, the fear that the thief will target me. Yet I cannot guarantee that next time it will not be me and that someone will be feeling as helpless as I felt yesterday.
How much higher will we roll up our windows, build our walls, be afraid? I don’t know but I know we need change.