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Birthday party raid

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Generally speaking, we expats have a pretty perfect existence out here. There is the usual round of parties, school runs, school sports days, coffee mornings etc. At the moment things are winding up for the end of the school year. However, occasionally something happens to shatter the idyll and the whole community is left reeling in shock.

Last weekend a seven year olds birthday party was ‘held up’ in Karen at 2.30pm by five armed ‘thugs’, wielding pistols and ak47s. I wasn’t there but the whole experience sounded pretty nasty. Children and adults were shepherded from room to room and robbed of jewellery, cash and mobile phones. Some adults were beaten up, threats were made and when emergency response teams came later, shots were fired. The gang were twitchy and panicking as party late comers kept arriving in cars, on foot and on bikes. One mother escaped by reversing down the narrow winding drive and quickly went to raise the alarm. The gang escaped after stealing another parent’s car. They dumped it down the road. There were no fatalities, but quite a few seven year olds are now asking their parents questions like; ‘why are there nasty men’ and ‘will the robbers be coming here?’ Apparently the perpetrators were wearing police/army issue work boots, which may be telling as poorly paid officers have been known to moonlight on the wrong side of the law during their spare time, in an effort to supplement their low income.

The story of the ill fated birthday party had circulated with hours, extra security vans were deployed here and there and night watchmen were warned to be extra vigilant during their rounds. Similar raids and hold ups have taken place over the last few years all over town, each with a similar formula (possibly the same gang). We’ve been advised not to put balloons on the gate and to step up security when planning children’s birthday parties. How depressing. What made it so distasteful is the fact that an innocent occasion like that was targeted and children, who above all you are responsible for protecting, were threatened and traumatised.

I have been agonising over whether to write this all week, as it’s not actually my story to tell (I wasn’t there) and nor is it really done to broadcast the down sides of expat living. The last thing I want to do is horrify family and friends, but these things happen here, in the same way as there are girl gangs of 12 year olds mugging people in London and murders happen in sleepy towns in England. Stoicism is the way of dealing with it here and more often than not the Kenyans, not the expats, are the unsuspecting victims.

I was chatting to a long term expat from the other side of town, bemoaning the state of security at the moment and he said there is always a spate of burglaries, beatings, raids and car jackings at this time of year. June seems to him to be a ‘hot’ month for crime; ‘You always end up feeling like going back to Europe for the summer and not bothering to coming back here, but we do come back and things seem to settle back down, at least for a while’.

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