Tuk Tuk drivers in Mombasa are a scared lot. They won’t take your money if you ask them to take you to some parts of Mombasa. They allege that there are serious crimes being committed and they are the main targets.
Ms Umi passed by a popular Swahili food restaurant that opens until late. She was not worried about the time at all because Tuk Tuks are plenty in Mombasa whichever time it is. She stepped out of the restaurant some minutes after 10 pm and hailed one Tuk Tuk after the other. None was willing to take her to where she wanted to go. Even an offer to increase the fare did not work.
What Umi did not know, is that Tuk Tuk drivers have blacklisted some areas of Mombasa where they simply don’t go. In some of these places, the situation has become so bad, they won’t go even in broad daylight. They are being robbed violently with stabbings being reported in most of these cases.
Mombasa, especially the Old Town area has many narrow streets. It is one of the reasons why this town has the highest concentration of these three wheelers in Kenya. They maneuver easily in the narrow streets, are cheap, convenient and operate just like taxis.
However, the deteriorating security situation in Mombasa has resulted in an increase of robberies and made some streets no go zones on foot after nightfall. For sometime now, Tuk Tuks were able to take people through the risky areas, until the drivers became targets of vicious attacks. The Tuk Tuk drivers claim that the residents are not attacked and almost all the attacks happen after dropping their clients.
One driver narrates how he took an elderly lady home to deliver 2 bags of cement against his better judgement. Even before he was done offloading, local youths were hovering menacingly waiting to pounce. He was saved by the elderly lady who went back with him until he got to a safer area. He thought he was safe during the day. What irks the Tuk Tuk drivers is the fact that the criminals responsible for the knife stabbings are very young, in their teens and most likely living with their parents.
“Why are they being protected by the community?”,
one driver asks. Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa corroborated the criminals age in February when he said they were about 14 and 17 years of age and were known to the police.
Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has fired a warning.
“Enough is enough. We are putting the parents of those youths on notice and if they will not stop terrorizing people, we will move house to house with the police and arrest them. We will even hire lawyers to make sure they are properly prosecuted and jailed.”
The wave of these violent attacks has prompted the area leadership including top political leaders and security officers to establish a community policing unit in Old Town and Majengo. At a recent security Baraza Governor Hassan Joho and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, Senator Hassan Omar among others agreed on the formation of a community policing unit that will be manned by the local youth and police.
However, the Tuk Tuk operators say there has been no change in their security and they have cut off some routes from their operations. These areas includes Old town- Mlango wa papa road, Kuze road, Pigot place and environs. In addition they are also steering clear of the Majengo area including Masjid Musa area, Kingorani and areas around Mwembe Kuku.
The days when one could walk in any part of Mombasa and feel safe are gone, now even Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers are scared of going to some areas.