One night in 2001, at around 3 am, I drove into an ambush laid out by thugs in a Nairobi estate. They had laid out a makeshift “roadblock” of huge rocks and the way they had set it up, you didn’t see it until you turned a corner and you were almost driving over it.
Luckily, my instincts took over and I was able to stop just before I was going to hit the rocks and disable the car. I immediately started reversing furiously in a bid to get out of the tight corner, and while I was doing that, I saw a bunch of men armed with what looked to be some kind of crude weapons come out from behind nearby vibandas.
Suddenly, I heard a loud bang and the sound of breaking glass before something hit my face and almost knocked me out. I was able to complete the reverse manoeuvre, and in the process almost ran over one of the thugs.
I didn’t know what had struck me because my face went completely numb, I suppose from all the adrenaline that was coursing through my body at that time. But by the time I got back on the main road, I knew I’d been seriously wounded. At first, I thought I’d been shot, but I couldn’t be sure.
But what had actually happened was that a huge rock had been thrown through the driver’s window and hit me smack on the face in a bid to disable me and make me an easy target for either a carjacking or murder.
I could feel the welling of blood in my mouth, and I begun to spit it out all over the inside of the car. It turned out that I was also spitting out pieces of broken teeth, glass and rock.
Then I knew shit had gotten real.
I was bleeding badly and I needed to get to a hospital before I went into shock from blood loss. I drove fast and furiously (yes, pun intended) to The Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi. Long story short, I stayed at that hospital for three days, during which I underwent maxillofacial surgery, also referred to in medical terms as “when surgeons try to repair damage to your face so that women don’t look away in horror while presumably trying hard to keep down the vomit that’s rising fast to their throat”.
I had a torn lower lip, broken teeth and a fractured lower jaw from which they had to remove pieces of bone they couldn’t fix. I was lucky that not much else was damaged. I was luckier that I’d gotten away with my life.
In later years, I would be the victim of two carjacking incidents, the last of which took place this past weekend.
That wasn’t my first brush with violent crime. One day, when I was ten or eleven years old, I was leaving school from holiday tuition when I was accosted by three chokoras, or parking boys (for those readers that aren’t Kenyan, that’s homeless boys for you). They wanted my shiny new watch that I’d just bought with some pocket money I’d saved.
Now, that watch was my first real possession and I really, really liked it. So what did I do? Instead of handing it over, I tried to explain to these kids why I wasn’t feeling their vibe, so one of them removed a stained dagger – stained, presumably from all the stabbings it had done - from his pocket and held the business end against my stomach. Needless to say, I was unable to tell you the time that evening if you’d asked me!
In 1997, I was thrown off the railway bridge between K/South and Umoja estates by four thugs, who then proceeded to follow me down there and violently robbed me of money, a leather jacket and brand new shoes. At the end of the ordeal, I had a deep wound in the head for which I had to get a number of stitches in hospital.
The following year, at my younger sister’s graduation party, someone fired a gun in a botched robbery at a nearby eatery. The bullet hit a wall, ricocheted and grazed one of our guests on the head!
A month or so after that incident, one of my neighbours drove into the common parking area in the estate I lived in. The time was 7.30 pm. Two men, one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other a pistol, approached the car and ordered the occupants out. The driver complied, but his wife, for reasons no one was able to explain afterwards, was unable to exit the car.
I could see her husband, who had been made to lie on the ground pleading with her to get out and let them have the car. In my mind, this appeared to play on for a long time, though in reality it was just a couple of minutes. One of the gunmen, the one with the pistol got into the car and attempted to start the engine. Because it had a cut out switch, it wouldn’t start. And presumably out of rage, or just pure douchbaggery, he put the gun to the woman’s head and
Holy Mother of God
Pulled. The. Trigger!
Just shot her at point blank range in front of all of us, her neighbours. And then they walked away like it was just a bad day at the office where someone had forgotten to load the printer with fresh paper and now everyone was pissed!
I was the first person to reach her. Her head was lying against the seat’s head rest and I could see the exit wound on her head. There was blood and white stuff which I assume must have been fragments of her skull and brain matter. I undid her safety belt, and together with other people removed her from the car and put her in another. We then drove as fast as we could to The Aga Khan Hospital (yeah, that hospital seems to receive its fair share of victims of violent crime).
We knew she was dying; no one could survive a horrific injury like that, but what the hell were we going to do? Leave her to die in that car without trying to... I don’t know, do something?
She was pronounced dead on arrival.
This was the first violent killing of another human being that I had ever witnessed, and it shook me to the core! I could not believe what I had seen. It just didn’t seem possible that someone could be that merciless.
Oh, and did I mention that her young twin sons, who were about five years old were watching from a window in their house? And her daughter, who was just a few months old, was waiting for her mother so that she could suckle?
Just two weeks ago, I was woken up at 4 am by the sound of gunshots. They sounded like they were coming from right outside my gate. My neighbour called me to say that she was scared and her husband wasn’t home. I told her to gather her kids inside her bedroom, lock the door and holy shit do not peep outside your window. You know, just to avoid catching a really bad case of bullet-in-your-face syndrome. I hear it can really spoil your day!
The fierce exchange of gunfire went on for an hour and a half (remember this is happening right outside my gate, really interfering with my ability to go back to sleep!) before it stopped. Then we all came out of our houses to do a body count, only to discover to our utter disappointment that only two thugs had been shot.
Apparently, they had stolen a car elsewhere and had been chased by cops right into our estate, and because they were not familiar with the area, found themselves completely blocked and surrounded.
The estate I live in is not a joke. Everyone there is some kind of security agent, retired, or they just carry a gun for shits and giggles! Either way, you just don’t f@#&*%g commit crime! It’s kind of frowned upon.
Anyway, we found one of the thugs already dead. But the second one, man! This was a stubborn one. He just wouldn’t go quickly despite having been shot numerous times. He just kept rolling on the ground, bleeding all over our clean cabro and just simply... not dying!
We decided to smoke cigarettes (I don’t smoke) and talk about the Kethi Kilonzo saga while we waited for him give up. He asked for water, because apparently getting shot all over will make you really thirsty. One of my neighbours obliged him, but the water came out of what used to be his stomach and didn’t do him a whole lot of good. Eventually, he died.
In a rather hilarious incident, one of my friends found himself riding in the boot of his car twice in one week! Apparently, the idiots who carjacked him the second time didn’t get the memo that the deed had already been done to him.
There’s a law against being taken twice within a span of a few days. There is such a law, right? Right?
I really tried to get appropriate photos for this post, but I just couldn’t find any. The ones I found were, well... vomit inducing?