“Two things that I regret about that night? Deciding to go for an overnight house party, and not waiting till later in the day or the following day even to withdraw my money. If I could re-live that night, I would have waited.”
*The following narration is a true witness account of an armed robbery at an ATM near Kenya Cinema, in the Nairobi CBD*
“Thou shalt not stay in thy abode on a Saturday night.”
It must be a written rule somewhere, I’m sure of it. Saturday, April 22nd, 2017. 5 pm. I left my house headed for town, the plan being to meet up with a few friends and while the night away club-hopping in the city. I got to town and headed for one of the local pubs on Tom Mboya Street while I waited for my pals to check in. However, over an hour and a couple of beers later, none had shown up yet.
A little agitated, I begin making calls. It didn’t take long before I found another “plot”, this time a house party on Thika Road. Finally! Ka-nyama choma, a little drink and a whole lot of music, just what the doctor ordered for a Saturday night. Even from the background music I could hear during the phone call, I could tell that party was happening.
Fast-forward till 5 am and it’s time to leave. Well, I could have waited till later in the day but I got a push from a few friends who were heading to Lang’ata and they agreed to drop a couple of us off in town.
Our friends dropped us off at Ambassadeur on Moi Avenue and sped off. We parted ways with my pal at this point as well. As expected, town was absolutely deserted at this time of day. It was a few minutes past 5 am, and all I could see around me was the odd security guard here and there manning banks and ATMs. ATMs. Since I was in town already, I decided to withdraw my upkeep money for the rest of the week. I figured it would save me the hustle of having to do it the following morning.
As I walk into an ATM outside Kenya Cinema, I notice one man leaving. I raise a hand in greeting to the security guard outside as I get in. I might have caught a glimpse of a couple of guys walking in my direction out of the corner of my eye, but I’m not too sure. I wasn’t bothered anyway. Now, I’d just checked my balance when I heard the door open behind me and before I knew it, I felt something hard pressed against my side. I glance down and see a pistol.
“Toa kila kitu kwa account. Anza na simu kwanza.” (Withdraw all the money in your account. Give me your phone first.)
To be honest, I felt a little déjá-vu. It wasn’t the first time I was being mugged, the only difference being that the previous time it was a knife held against my back in a matatu. I knew not to resist. I tried pleading with him to at least let me keep the SIM card in the phone but he wasn’t in the mood to listen. The whole ordeal was over in a couple of minutes, and as I stepped out of the ATM behind him, two other thugs were outside. One of them was also armed with a pistol, presumably to encourage the guard to stay quiet.
I later passed by my parents’ place to tell them what happened and ended up being on the receiving end of a verbal onslaught from my mom:
“Tulikuambia si lazima utoke nyumbani kila usiku, na pia hii maneno ya kutembea tembea nje usiku tulikuwa tumeongea tukasema ni masaa ya wezi…” (We’d told you that you don’t have to go out every night, and we’d also mentioned that thugs are more likely to operate at night.)
There are a lot of lessons that can be drawn from David’s* experience. First, your choice of ATM and the time of day that you choose to visit an ATM could really impact your safety. You should always go for an ATM that is in a well-lit and public area. Avoid ATMs that are on corners because corners create blind spots that make it easier for thugs to take advantage of.
It’s not advisable to visit an ATM earlier in the morning or late at night, but if you really have to, consider tagging a friend along with you. The numbers deter some criminals from confronting you. Another thing, be cautious of your surroundings as you enter an ATM. Watch out for individuals loitering about, or people seated in parked cars nearby. If someone follows you as you’re leaving the ATM, head for a public area and try to find security officers on patrol nearby.
Lastly, if you’re out late, say at a house party, consider making plans for your accommodation beforehand so you don’t find yourself having to get home in the wee hours of the morning, or arrange for transport to get you straight home beforehand if you have to.
Stay safe this weekend folks!
*Not his real name