How thugs have turned footbridges in Nairobi into deadly mugging zones
It’s 10pm and Peter Ogeto is heading home from work. The 30-year-old completely avoids walking up the footpath at Naivas area in Mathare and instead crosses the road by jumping over guard rails.
A few minutes later, more pedestrians follow suit and cross to the road in a similar fashion, completely avoiding the footbridge.
According to Mr Ogeto, crossing the road at night by jumping over the guard rails is much safer than using the footbridge.
“It is a hideout for criminals. You go up the bridge and in very few minutes you will find yourself in the midst of a gang who will viciously attack you,” Ogeto says.
He says that he has witnessed members of the public being attacked on the footbridge by gangs that disappear into the larger Mathare and Baba Ndogo slums.
“They run through the footbridge and disappear into the shanties. Nobody bothers to stop them or assist the victims. I don’t want to be part of those statistics,” he says.
Two months ago a woman was attacked by a gang that was armed with knives just a few minutes past 8pm in one of the most shocking incidents Ogeto says he has ever witnessed.
Again, as the attackers run to the other side of the footbridge and disappeared into the slums, no one bothered to assist the woman.
“The woman wailed for a minutes but no one helped her. It was like she was invisible until a group decided to reach out and find out whether she was okay,” he says.
“All that time, I was wondering why no one, including touts on the other side of the road, didn’t attempt to intervene.
Footbridges have been put up along major roads in Nairobi to prevent pedestrians from being knocked down by speeding vehicles, but many of them have turned into hideouts for criminals gangs which operate at night.
This is the chilling reality that Mr Caleb Kariuki, who runs a shop near the Roysambu stage footbridge right at the gate of the Kenya Power Company (KPLC), has come to live with.
Mr Kariuki says incidents of gangs waylaying and attacking members of the public on the footbridge at night has become the norm.
To make matters worse, guard rails reinforced with wire mesh have been erected in the middle of the highway to prevent pedestrians from crossing the road.
He says members of the public can now only find safety in numbers while using the footbridge at night.
“The idea of putting up footbridges is good for preventing road accidents but the thought of being confronted by muggers in the footbridge is very scary,” he says.
in his estimation, every week a case or two is reported of members of the public being attacked by thugs on the footbridge.
In February, a first year student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) was stabbed to death by a gang that trailed her from a footbridge in Juja.
The late Tabitha Muthoni was stabbed as she resisted the knife brandishing gang.
John Kimani, a student at JKUAT, says most students don’t prefer using the footbridge as it is known to be a hideout for criminals.
“It is so risky to use the footbridge at night. As early as 7pm you can only use the footbridge at your own peril,” he says.
Other footbridges that have become infamous for mugging incidents include those in Weitethie, Kariokor and Ruiru.
Another footbridge that has become very dangerous to use is the Kenya Railways bridge which connects South B estate to the city centre.
Apart from being worn out, it also serves as a hideout for muggers.
Many other footbridges in the city are similarly deplorable, posing a great risk to pedestrians.
Just last week, students of Kenyatta University protested and engaged the police in violent confrontation leading to the institution’s indefinite closure, with one of their complaints being that the school administration had enforced the use of a footbridge within the school.
However, Nairobi News has established that some footbridges are secure and safe day and night.
One such footbridge is the one located at Kahawa Wendani which is right outside Kahawa Barracks along the Thika Superhighway.
“I have never heard of any complaints from those who regularly use this footbridge. it is very safe to use it,” said Noel Achieng, a Kenyatta University student who lives in Kahawa area.
In a recent update on the state of footbridges along the busy Thika Superhighway, the Kenya National Highway Authority said that it will erect an additional four.
The footbridges, according to records seen by Nairobi News, are to be erected at the Survey of Kenya, Witeithie, Mang’u and Garden Estate area and will cost the government more than Sh 800 million.