The first time Anita resolved to start robbing her clients, prostitution had become a nightmare to her. She had been abused and beaten up on many occasions, often by rich but stingy punters. At times, they had declined to pay her. But if they agreed to pay, they shoved a few low-currency notes and coins into her hands. All the money she got went into fending for her two children, having lost her first and second husbands to crime in less than five years.
Frustrated by the hardship of life, Anita, a college graduate, began recruiting jobless young men in Kenya’s capital into her heists. The men, usually in their late teens or early twenties, would lay an ambush awaiting her instruction to strike. Her uncanny ability to quickly discern the amount of money on a client baffled the youths. Their admiration and reverence for her largely contributed to the success of the operations.
“In the end, each person got a share of the loot commensurate to the role they had played. My indispensable role in the robberies automatically earned me the biggest share,” Anita told Africa Uncensored.
With time, she transformed from a successful and experienced robber-cum-prostitute into a criminal virtuoso. Though cognizant of the dangers and risks she exposed herself to, Anita became more resilient in her quest to boost her income and punish “errant” clients. For some time, things went on well until one evening in 2014. On that night, her accomplices unknowingly ambushed police officers who had been posing as clients.
“They shot at us in a fitful rage forcing everyone to scamper for safety. Fortunately, no one was hit,” Anita, 27, recalls.
Ironically, her clients include police officers some of whom advise her on how to better ply her trade. She remembers being cautioned by one officer against taking her clients’ mobile phones whenever she robbed them. Being in possession of a mobile phone belonging to a robbery victim would easily set her up for arrest and prosecution, she was told.
After the bungled robbery that nearly got her and her accomplices killed by police officers, Anita disengaged from crime, but not for long. Within a few weeks, she was at it again, this time intermittently. Being a widowed single mother with no source of income necessitated the stealing, she says. So far, she claims to have purloined hundreds of thousands of shillings from high-profile clients who include politicians.
“That however does not make me proud as I am constantly in danger of losing my life,” she states. “The thought of my kids being orphaned scares me. Unfortunately, there is no way out of this mess.”
The manner in which she lost her first husband still rankles with her. He disappeared without trace in 2009. Prior to that, he had been spotted at Fig Tree area near Ngara market in Nairobi. It is alleged that plain-clothed detectives hurriedly bundled him into a private car one evening as he walked home. The disappearance came days after Anita learned that her husband of many years was an adherent of the once dreaded Mungiki sect. For years, he had painstakingly concealed his identity until the day he would be promoted. But the promotion came at a cost: Anita had to be circumcised.
She and her husband had just retired to bed when the latter requested her to pull out a gallon of water from underneath the bed and use it to bathe. A puzzled frown puckered her forehead as she stared at the green-colored water. Within a few minutes, the man she thought she knew inside out unmasked himself and apologized for his deceptive outward appearance.
“He then told me to get ready for the circumcision rite planned for the following day. His colleagues would pick me up,” Anita remembers.
Witty thinking saved her from an ordeal that would probably have been harrowing. With pretended nonchalance, she requested him for money to buy bread from a nearby shop. On her way out of the house, she surreptitiously pinched her then two-year old daughter who started crying. The cries prompted him to order her back to take the baby with her which she did. She never returned.
Three years after her husband’s disappearance, Anita met and married a fourth-year University student from a Kenyan institution. Her intention then was to purge her criminal lifestyle and settle down, especially after she got her second born. But her hope of a leading an honest life began diminishing when years passed without her new husband securing a job. Unknown to her, the husband ventured into crime and eventually got killed during a robbery in Nairobi.
In retrospect, Anita believes the two men who fathered her children would still be alive had the Kenyan Government created jobs for the youth and empowered them economically. She represents millions of educated but frustrated, jobless young people across Africa.
Words: Dennis Mbae