If the ordeal that a friend went through this morning is any guide, it is dangerous to stand outside a bank in Nairobi.
Having just come from his honeymoon, Sam started his day at the Kimathi Street branch of Equity Bank this morning to withdraw Kshs. 250,000.
He was going to use the money to pay off someone. Sam left the bank and called his payee, who confirmed he was not too far off. Sam would wait for him for a few minutes, the two agreed.
As Sam whiled the moments away outside the bank clutching his laptop bag and occasionally twiddling with his cellphone, an innocuous-looking white NZE car with three occupants pulled over on the sidewalk between the Equity Bank branch and the adjoining Jamia Mall.
Leaving the driver behind, two of the occupants leapt out and confronted Sam. Introducing themselves as “CID officers”, they sought to know from him why he was standing outside a bank. “I am meeting someone who’s actually not too far off”, Sam countered assertively.
When asked to identify themselves, the officers obligingly flashed genuine-looking Kenya Police IDs. They demanded that Sam accompany them to CID Headquarters along Kiambu Road for “vetting”. Everything happened so fast for Sam, who was muddled by the unexpected turn of events to have any photographic memory of the identities behind the Kenya Police IDs, or of the registration of the white NZE Toyota car.
He soon found himself sandwiched at the rear seat of the car by the two officers as the third one took the wheels.
But it is the ensuing daylight developments that turned out to be even more traumatising for Sam, who had lots of cash with him, two laptops, including a Mac, a cellphone and personal effects, including ATM cards.
As the car approached Muthaiga Police station, Sam was suddenly handcuffed and ordered to switch off his cellphone. The two men then violently bundled him to the floor of the car, where they took turns to trample and rain blows on him. One of them even menacingly hit his scalp repeatedly with the butt of a handgun.
According to Sam, he kept on pleading for his life to one of the officers, who incessantly threatened to kill him. Sam recalls it was this officer who asked him whether he knows of Kenyans who vanish from the face of the planet, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, instead of taking the Kiambu road turnoff, the car hurtled onwards along Thika road and onto the eastern bypass.
Sam only realised he was far from CID headquarters when they later unshackled his handcuffs along a desolate dirt road off the bypass, at a place he would soon learn is called Kimbo.
Sam is convinced these were rogue police officers. Occasionally, they would engage in phone calls in which they addressed each other as afande. Everything, including their looks, seemed to betray them as cops.
At a secluded spot where they abandoned him, they ordered him to walk along the dirt road and not dare look back. It seems their intention was for him not to note the car registration. They even waited for him to reach a safe distance before they drove off in the opposite direction.
Luckily they spared his life, but not before dispossessing him of the two laptops and cash in the mid-morning robbery. They also handed back to him his work and national IDs, empty laptop bag, ATM card and several business cards he had.