Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nairobbery – robbery in Nairobi

Friday 24th May 2013, 4am.

I walked down River Road with the naïve swagger of a villager newly arrived in the green city in the sun. The street was well lit, desolate at that early hour, a seeming direct route to my Fire Station destination. I hurried along.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

I know not by what satanic artifice an arm, its owner having crept up on me with ominous silence, materialized around my neck, wrapped it, began to press.  He stayed well out of danger behind my back, hiding behind my own body to shield himself from me. I froze momentarily in horror as my assailant’s weight and power bore down on my neck. It took me a minute to realize I was getting robbed. The sight of four other surly-looking miscreants emerging from a side alley to swarm towards me brought the point home.

Trapped, I prayed an urgent prayer to GOD to preserve my life.

As the crooks neared, a surge of adrenalin – the fight or flight hormone – washed over my nerves. I couldn’t choose flight because this persistent man hanging on my neck had anchored me to the ground. I had to fight, for oxygen at least. The four men inched closer. I heaved a last minute scramble to try and evade his grip. We staggered across the street. Nothing doing. My futile efforts to shake him off only earned a harder constriction of my neck. My breathing stopped, my eyes bulged out as neither air nor blood traversed my neck.
This is just the cute version (image from Wikipedia.com)

The four or five other men arrived and quickly set about their apportioned tasks. One went through my pockets. Another reached for my bag. Another squatted over my knees and began to pull off my shoes; shortly, off came the right shoe. The fourth circled me, threw the occasional punch here and shoved there. Time seemed frozen for an instant; I was fighting for air. The minute my right foot was liberated from its shoe, my knee-jerk reaction hammered that shoe thief in the teeth; he reeled backwards and away. Left shoe remained.

My breathing had become laborious but the strangler showed no signs of letting up till I was cleaned out. By this time I was down on the ground, struggling only for air. But the shoe man’s surrender gave me better footing. As I pushed backwards into the strangler, I felt my bag slipping off my hand as it was pulled away; my fingers instinctively closed around the strap; and I pulled at it with all my might. The strap snapped, the bag man remained with the bag in his hand, but the loose end of the strap remained in my hand. It was when I reached forward and grabbed the bag out of his grip that I realized that I was dealing with a bunch of unarmed weaklings whose only advantage was their numerical superiority.

I determined to get back on my feet and run away. The strangler wouldn’t let up, and his four friends pushed me back down every time I got on my knees. My elbows and knees scraped against the pavement. A foot pushed me down. Amidst all these, I realized that I was dragging the strangler about and he was now hanging on, as if for dear life, we both having realized that I was much stronger than him and his continued hold on my neck was his only refuge. I’ve been fast on my feet for as long as I can remember, so I knew if I could shake him off I could run away immediately. My urgent efforts were only made more desperate by the fear that prolonged fighting on my part would necessitate the introduction of sharp weapons into the fight.

Once again the bag man yanked at my bag. I grabbed it out of his grip again, but he held onto a flap of the bag - in which was my phone and money securely hidden in a secret compartment. The bag and its flap parted ways with a loud rip.  He grumbled. I rolled away with bag in armpit, compressing my strangler against tarmac. His grip loosened, I twisted out of it, the crooks followed me around. A kick to the ribs leveled me again; I rolled away and lunged to my knees. When another criminal reached for my sore neck to wring it anew, I grabbed his outstretched arm and pulled myself to my feet. He sprang back.

At last, freedom! Fresh air! Stable Footing! These things gave me pause as I beheld my enemies, arrayed in apparent perplexity before me. There was a pause I couldn’t and still can’t quite understand. We stared at each other. As I caught my breath, they fidgeted with their caps, adjusting them over their eyes. (In hindsight they were probably just as ready to run away as I was.)

At length the nearest of them gathered courage and began wrapping a length of fabric around his fist as he strode towards me uttering curses under his breath. I held his angry gaze even as he threw a weak punch, which bounced ineffectually off my abdomen. Now he was asking for it, really - my reflex reaction to his futile attack was an immediate hard kick to his solar plexus. (I plead self defence.) His knees buckled, his lips let a groan escape, as if I hadn’t kicked him with a foot wrapped by only a sock.

At this commotion, his partners in crime stirred. I didn’t wait to understand the meaning of it, taking off at full speed, even without one shoe. It took me just two quick explosive strides to outrun them –I do not exaggerate – but I ran all of fifty meters just to expand the margin of safety.

When I stopped running and looked back I beheld a well-lit, empty street, with my right shoe lying alone in the middle of it. The torn flap was nowhere to be seen. My heart continued racing.


Stranded in Nairobi city without phone or money at 4am, I didn’t know what to do. I stood in one spot and worried for an hour, traumatized by the fact that personal information on my phone, including pictures of my beloved, were right that minute in the possession of crude criminals. My thoughts dwelt in the bleaker quarters of philosophy as I considered the reprobates who, if they got their way, would have stripped me naked while compressing my neck. Scenes of the violence I had just endured replayed themselves before my mind. I reflected on and muttered one particular Bible verse repeatedly: “Woe to the bloody city! The prey escapeth not.” I considered waiting around in the city center until working hours, when people I knew would come to work, then present my beaten bruised self in dusty torn garments to ask for assistance. It was ridiculous, shameful even to consider. I prayed disjointed phrases of prayer, asking for divine intervention..

Eventually I started walking. Uexpectedly I ran into a familiar face, Julie, an old friend from times bygone, a swimming teammate from my undergrad days. I narrated my problems in a daze, she recounted them to her friend, another familiar face from a time that seemed another lifetime. I asked for fare alone and they gave it to me, showing much concern and sympathy.

My eyes moistened as my outlook on life instantly softened: whereas there are those who will take by force that which is not theirs, there are also those who will freely give that which is rightfully theirs to keep. Such is the love of GOD towards us in giving us His Son Jesus Christ.
Thank you Julie! You set me on the path to recovery.


  1. Tony, you've got a good gig going in here. I like. Though i haven't got round to reading many of your Christian musings. When the time is right, i will, just not yet. Ailis update? The Ex update? Trying to get over girls update? I still think Ailis was the ish.

    1. Remembering Ailis is really dicey. Plays havoc on me. I've put the brakes on the ladies until developments signify that I can drive safely. Meanwhile my Christians musings will persist as they are all I have left. Have a look :)

  2. Wow, what a scary experience. I shudder at what would have happened if you were actually 'weaker' than them.

    The heart of man is desperately wicked, truly. But of great consolation is the fact that more abound who are kind hearted and would 'freely give that which is rightfully theirs..'

    Stay safe.


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