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When the leafy suburbs become a security nightmare

By NAIROBI February 16th, 2014 4 min read

It is every Nairobian’s dream to live in a mansion or bungalow in the city’s swanky estates.

But police records now indicate you could actually be safer in an apartment or flat in the middle and lower income estates than in the posh estates such as Runda, Nyari, Karen or Kileleshwa.

The statistics paint a picture of residents besieged every night by armed robbers who strike at will and make away with huge amounts of money – in foreign and Kenyan currencies jewellery, household goods and cars, among other valuables.

Nairobi County deputy police commander Moses Ombati argues that residents who live in posh estates are perceived to be wealthier than those in less affluent areas hence the regular attacks.

Also, he says, community policing has not been effective in such estates.

According to Mr Ombati, most robbers are from slums, who conduct robberies in upmarket areas before going back.

“We have cases of househelps and guards colluding with criminals to rob their employers,” said Mr Ombati.

From senior government officials to diplomats, expatriates and businessmen, no one is spared in the attacks that happen from as early as 8 pm. 

The fortified high walls, installed with electric fences, the security guards and the super strong gates, doors and window grilles to be found in most of the premises in the upmarket estates mean little to the gangs.

The grilles are cut using special snips; in some cases, the thugs use home-made explosives to scare people into opening doors.

The commonest approach employed by robbers is to ambush the residents by their gates. 

And, unlike in apartments or flats where the proximity to police stations and bases provides a chance for the police to respond to alerts, it is different in the upper class estates where houses can be kilometres apart, meaning the tenants are on their own.

This provides the thugs ample time to ransack homes.

In one instance last year, thugs loaded all the household goods from the house of a senior government official in Runda.

And according to Mr James Ndung’u, a project manager at Arms Control and Policing at Safe World, the upmarket mansions are often isolated, making the risk of attracting attention, once subdued, much lower than in apartments where group reaction may scare thugs.

“The ‘cost benefit’ analysis makes those living in the upmarket high level targets because of the perception that the residents are wealthy and often keep huge sums of money, jewellery, expensive computing devices, like smart phones, tablets and laptops, and other valuables which are easily marketable in the now-complicated black market,” he says.

The security expert also says where there is private security, inside jobs are common where guards and housekeepers collaborate with robbers.

Police records show that a robbery incident has happened every night in the exclusive estates in the last two months.


Conversely, few robberies have been reported to the police from the less affluent estates within the same period.

The latest of such attacks happened at Mimosa Grove estate in Runda on Thursday night last week when three men armed with improvised explosives – a bicycle wire and match stick phosphorus broke into the house of Margaret Kamene Matheka, an auditor with the Education Ministry. They stole two mobile phones and a Toyota Rav 4. 

On Tuesday of the same week, Felister Muli, who works at the Ministry of Public Works, was waylaid by four thugs – two armed with pistols outside her house in Tabere Crescent in Kileleshwa. She was robbed of Sh24,000, an iPhone and forced to reveal her ATM and M-Pesa PINs where they withdrew Sh20,000 from each of the account in the 10 pm incident. The thugs then abandoned her along Rhapta Road and drove off in her Toyota Prado.

Last Monday, seven thugs armed with an AK-47 rifle and a pistol stole household goods worth Sh805,000 from Dr Saaio Mauro’s house in Miotoni Ridge in Karen. They also stole Sh9,000, $300 (Sh25,500) and €600 Euros (Sh70,800).

The same night, four thugs shot and critically injured a guard at Saminaa Mohammed’s home in Karen during a 1 am robbery incident. They stole Sh1,000, six mobile phones and jewellery.

February 8 appears to have been the busiest for the thieves. At 4.45 am, six men armed with crude weapons cut through the kai-apple fence of Briton Jim Cheatle’s homestead in Runda Estate but did not steal anything after the alarm went off.

Earlier that night, three men, also armed with crude weapons, raided the home of Mr Pierre Parson at Pepo Lane in Karen at 3.10 am and stole a CPU, two wedding rings and a phone. They injured one of the guests on their way out.

At 1 am, businessman Alfayaz Sundaji was ambushed in his Range Rover just after the security guard opened the gate to his Royal Park home on Rhapta Road.

The gang ransacked his house and stole Sh350,000, $4,000 (Sh340,000), two iPads, a laptop and a log book.

The previous night, Fardorisa Yusuf had been blocked from behind outside her home on Githunguri Road in Kileleshwa by two armed men in a saloon car, who drove off in her car.

On January 13, armed thugs broke into radio presenter Ms Caroline Mutoko’s Nyari residence in Nairobi and stole household and electronic goods and other valuables.

The five-man gang is said to have scaled a perimeter wall, attacked and tied guards who were on duty at the compound. Police said the gangsters cut the grilles before accessing the house.

“We are still in the process of finding out how they cut the strong metal,” said Gigiri deputy police boss Alice Kimeli.

And on November 17, last year, an Australian national was shot dead at his residence in Runda, Nairobi.

Nairobi County Commander Benson Kibue said that about 10 attackers, six of them in Administration Police uniform, raided the residence of Patrick John Richer, 39, and shot him twice in the chest at close range. Police are still investigating whether the suspects in AP uniform were indeed officers.

His wife Leslie Richer was not injured in the 1.40 am robbery, in which the attackers stole a TV set, phones and two laptops.

The deceased was a creative director with TBWA Flame Tree, an international advertising agency. The house had been the target of three different robberies in the last one year.