Official blog of pan-African writer and entertainer, Alexander Nderitu, author of 'When the Whirlwind Passes' and 'Kiss, Commander, Promise'. Contains articles, book excerpts, news, opinions, poems, quotable quotes, song lyrics, short stories and more...
Kenyan teen sensation Camp Mulla have a song called
‘Party Don’t Stop!’ but if they were more news-conscious they would know that
the parry stops pretty quickly when a
grenade is lobbed into an entertainment spot or gunshots pierce the night.
Late megastar Michael Jackson once sung, ‘Blood is
on the dance floor, blood is on the knife / Suzie got your number and Suzie
does it right.’ Even before the TwinTowers went down and
terrorism became a global issue, popular entertainment venues would sometimes
screen arriving revellers, which in sheng was described as ‘kupigwa tero.’ The reason was because there had been
sporadic cases of fights, usually between inebriated young men, some of which
ended in knife stabbings and other injuries.
And then terrorism began to spread across the
continents like wildfire. In August 1998,
the US Embassies in Kenya
were bombed in a synchronized attack believed to have been masterminded by
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Nairobi attack left 212 people dead, about
4,000 injured and property worth millions of dollars destroyed. And then, on
September 11, 2001 - a day that will remain in infamy - hi-jacked planes were
flown into the TwinTowers in New York City
and another one towards the Pentagon in WashingtonDC, and the world hasn’t been the
same since. Terrorism became a global issue, affecting business and travel
across the globe. New legislation such as the Patriot Act in the US was
formulated to help nip acts of terrorism in the bud.
In 2002, the Paradise Hotel, an Israeli-owned
resort in Mombasa,
was car-bombed, resulting in the death of thirteen people. Two surface-to-air
missiles were also fired at an Israeli-owned plane. Luckily, the Strela 2
missiles missed their targets. The assailants fled the scene, leaving behind
one missile launcher and two missile casings. A month later, the super-popular
Tembo Disco in Mombasa (NorthCoast)
was set on fire by suspected arsonists. The European-owned, makuti-roofed, Tembo Disco, which
recently closed down, was the region’s biggest entertainment joint. Also known
as the ‘House of Music’, it had an open-air disco with a capacity of three
thousand, two barbeque restaurants, a billiard lounge, a beer garden, a GOGO
(exotic dancers) bar and guest rooms. It was popular with both locals and
tourists – especially Germans. At the height of its popularity, it would host
up to three thousand pleasure seekers in a single night! Entrance was free for
ladies before midnight. Its fortunes began to dwindle as numerous little pubs
mushroomed all over the Coast, offering cheap beer and other incentives. The
increased popularity of villas and cottages as entertainment venues also took
market share from the discotheques.
2 missile plus launcher
On the morning of Thursday, 7th July 2005, three
co-ordinated bombs went off in the famous London Underground (a mass-transit
railway system), causing widespread damage and panic in the city. About an hour
later, another bomb went off; this time on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square.
Total body count: 56, including the four suicide bombers (Hasib Hussain,
Mohammad Sidique Khan, Germaine Lindsay and Shehzad Tanweer). Injured persons
were approximately 700.
The 2007/2008 post-election violence was yet
another blow to Kenya’s
entertainment industry. The December holidays, coupled with New Year
celebrations, are traditionally the most profitable periods for local
entertainment acts. The outbreak of violence following the disputed 2007
election exercise caused numerous events to be cancelled and much revenue lost.
Pubs, supermarkets and other businesses were also destroyed by protestors,
especially in Mombasa
and Kisumu, where property worth untold millions was either destroyed or
Showbiz began to lose its lustre. The famous Mamba
International Discotheque shut down (and has now been taken over by a new
proprietor who is turning it into the country’s first-ever ‘gospel disco’!) In
its heyday, the Mamba Disco had hosted such entertainers as Koffi Olomide,
General Defao, Fally Ipupa and the legendary Kanda Bongoman. Announcing the
closure of the joint, Tembo Investment Managing Director Walter Reif, posted
the following message on Facebook:
of TEMBO DISCO.
Curtain has fallen and an era in Entertainment History has come to an end.
attended the last party on Saturday experienced both .... a phantastic Dance
Party and a very emotional Kwa Heri to Tembo Disco!
I was touched
down deep inside my heart to see how many of the people attending showed their
deepest emotions and sadness about the closing of Tembo.
were shed that evening by Friends of Tembo, Tembo Staff, Tembo Members and
I would like
to again thank You All for Your support throughout the last 16 years.
i will keep
you updated about any further developments about a new place and hopefully very
soon we can all meet again in a NEW TEMBO.
LOLLIPOP MTWAPA remains in full operation ... 7 days a week from 9pm.
AND GOD BLESS
Walter L. Reif
Full Moon Night Club also got a total eclipse,
deflating the hearts of many Diani-area pleasure seekers. It had entertained
club-goers with many creative concepts, including Bikini Wrestling,
Arm-Wrestling Contests, Beauty and the Beast Contests and Halloween Parties.
Kenyan entertainers that performed at the joint include Wyre, Jaguar, Jua Cali
and DJ Bunduki. The last ‘tweet’ sent from their Twitter account
(@FullMoonDiani) on 12th August 2011 was about their ‘Bendover VS
Get Down - G-String Edition’ event which was slated for 13th August 2011.
FEAR FACTOR: Writer Alex Nderitu surveys a nightclub at the
height of the Al-Shabaab insurgency
As the new millennium wore on, international acts
of terrorism continued sporadically, mostly in war zones like Iraq and Somalia. During the 2010 World Cup
Finals, two bombs went off in clubs in Uganda
as fans were watching the drama-filled confrontation between Spain and the Netherlands. One bomb explosion took
place at a rugby club and the other at an Ethiopian restaurant. Together, the
attacks took 76 lives. An unexploded suicide vest was discovered at a nearby
disco, meaning that a third attack had been planned. Investigators believed
that the attacks were carried out by the Al-Shabaab Somalia militant group
which was said to have links with al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab also started making
sporadic attacks inside Kenya,
mostly around the common border with Somalia. Their repeated attacks and
kidnappings put a serious dent in the tourism sector and became a top-priority
national security issue. As the one-time Internal Security Minister John
Michuki once said, ‘If you rattle a snake, you should be ready to be bitten (by
it).’ The Al-Shabaab militants, who would later merge with al-Qaeda to
strengthen their outfit, were ‘rattling’ the Kenyan military machine and it was
just a matter of time before the Kenya Defence Forces struck back.
On 11th September 2011, British tourists Judith
Tebbutt and her husband of 26 years, David Tebbutt, were attacked by Somali
pirates shortly after they arrived at the secluded KiwayuSafariVillage resort, not far
from the border. The attackers knocked her unconscious with the butt of a
rifle. Her husband tried to fight off the attackers and was shot dead. Judith
Tebbutt was loaded onto a motorboat and whisked away. The abductors released
her seven months later, after her family paid a ransom.
On 1st October 2011, a pocket of Somali gunmen in a
speedboat beached on the shores on Manda island and abducted a disabled
Frenchwoman named Marie Dedieu. The nocturnal attack caused a fracas, with dogs
started barking and people shouting. Two Kenyan coastguard vessels and a police
chopper pursued the abductors and there was an exchange of fire but the
villains managed to sneak back into Somalia with the victim. A wheelchair-bound cancer survivor, Marie
Dedieu, aged 66, died in captivity.
A few weeks later, Somali gunmen kidnapped two
female Spanish aid workers and shot their driver at Dabaab refugee camp in
The abductees were working for Médecins sans Frontières which was assisting the
refugees in the sprawling camp – the world’s largest. They were driven towards Somalia in a
four-wheel drive vehicle.
On 16th October 2011, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF)
crossed the border into Somalia
in search of Al-Shabaab militants. It was dubbed ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ and had
the backing of the Somali Transition Government who had also been harassed by
the Islamist terrorist group. From the start, it was obvious that the
Al-Shabaab militant group was no match for an entire country’s military might –
what with Kenya’s
ground, air and water capabilities – but in a war situation, you never
underestimate your enemy. So when the rag-tag Al-Shabaab threatened to attack Nairobi’s skyscrapers,
the threat was taken seriously but the military and police. Entering city
buildings – be they office blocks, hotels, colleges or entertainment spots -
became a nightmare. Often, you would be required to show your ID before
entering an office block. Hand-held scanners became ubiquitous, often wielded
by uniformed guards. There were so many scanners in the city that you could
hear them pinging as you walked down the street. You had to be scanned just to
enter a pizza place and even some matatus,
such as the minibuses plying the South ‘B’ route. In clubs and discos, the
old-fashioned ‘tero’ was no longer enough – you had to submit yourself to a
body scan and your luggage to a minute examination before you enter the heng. You couldn’t even go through a building like the Hilton Hotel
or Nakumatt Lifestyle as a shortcut without being screened. Many buildings in Nairobi city are also now
equipped with CCTV cameras. Banks, ATMs, supermarkets and forex bureaus
embraced closed-circuit television decades ago but now many retail shops, MPESA
joints, cyber cafes, hotels and office buildings are using electronic
surveillance. Some of them are courteous enough to let you know that you are
being watched, with such notices as ‘THIS PROPERTY IS UNDER 24hr SURVEILLENCE’
and ‘SMILE, YOU’RE ON CCTV’ prominently displayed. But most don’t inform you –
you just look up to see a camera looking back at you; or a black glass orb,
like half an eggplant, hanging above the entrance to a lift. According to the
website of ASIS Security Services - a Kenyan company that provides hand-held metal
Detectors, CCTV Systems and other security equipment – their main clients are
property managers, matatu saccos and
Nairobi Bus station
where some mini-buses screen passengers before they board
As KDF’s military campaign proceeded, grenade
attacks took place in Nairobi,
Coast and North Eastern Kenya in retaliation.
On 24th October 2011, a Russian-made F1 grenade
went off at the popular ‘Mwauras’ disco in Nairobi. 14 revellers were injured in the
blast. It was followed by a second attack at a bus stop which killed one
commuter and injured eight others. Police apprehended a suspect who later
pleaded guilty to both attacks. He also confessed to being a member of the
dreaded Al-Shabaab terrorist group. Responding to the attack, provincial police
boss Anthony Kibuchi urged Kenyans to be vigilant and co-operate with the
police in order to help curb such incidents.
On 16th May 2012, a gang of attackers tried to gain
entry into club in Mombasa.
When they realized that they couldn’t get past the security guards without
being screened, they lobbed grenades at the entrance of the establishment and
fled, one of them dropping a firearm in the process. The grenades killed a
female bouncer and injured five other people.
BUSINESS: A matatu picks up passengers in a crowded street at night
In what was seen as an attempt to trigger a
religious war, grenade attacks were also carried out against Catholic and
African Inland churches in Garissa, not far from the Somali border. The attacks
killed 17 people and injured over 60 others.
On 12th July 2012, Kenyan football lovers stayed
away from clubs and other entertainment spots for the Euro 2012 finals, between
Spain and Italy, for fear
of explosions. Sport fans have over the past decade formed a culture of patronizing
DSTV-subscribed clubs to watch big games in a community atmosphere.
station in central Nairobi
On August 28th 2012, 4 people were
killed in separate attacks in Eastleigh. Eastleigh township is jocularly referred to as ‘Little
Mogadishu’ for its high density of Somali immigrants.
On October 23rd 2012, 1 person was killed and 29
others were wounded when a grenade was lobbed at a Nairobi bus station at 8.00 PM in the night.
Earlier the same day another grenade attack at a pub injured fourteen people.
Survivors told of panic in the aftermath of the blasts.
A typical grenade
In view of the nationwide insecurity, Coast Matatu
Owners Association boss Ben Murithi proposed that matatus should be equipped with metal detectors and to screen
passengers. However, Matatu Welfare Association national secretary-general,
Sammy Gitau, did not see this as a practical, long-term, solution because the
cost of the devices is prohibitive to thousands of matatu owners. This was not the first time a proposal to increase matatu security had received mixed
reactions. A couple of years ago, some stakeholders mooted the idea of
photographing matatu passengers at the beginning of journeys so that if the
vehicle was carjacked later, the survivors could point out which ‘passengers’
turned out to be ‘majambazi’. The problem with this plan was that matatus (especially in Nairobi) make numerous small stops to pick
and drop passengers. You would have to be photographing people every few
minutes, all day long.
KDF eventually routed the Al-Shabaab insurgents and
seized control of their bastions, including the port city of Kismayu which was their final stronghold. As
Kenyans began to celebrate their victory over the enemy, a child was killed in
an explosion at St Polycarp ACK Church, along Juja Road. Instead of reducing, the fear
of terror attacks actually increased! Al-Shabaab may have lost the battle, but
they appeared determined to win the war. Following the unexpected attack, the
police issued a controversial statement to the effect that landlords and hotel
owners would be held responsible for any explosives or similar devices found on
their premises. Hotels, motels and lodgings were to demand identification and
inquire the mission of their lodgers. It was a poor decision by the police
force as it appeared as admission that they were incapable of containing the
Al-Shabaab threat and were now transferring the responsibility to civilians.
Did they expect landlords to start making unexpected visits to their tenants,
demanding to be shown every nook and cranny of their houses? Do landlords and
hoteliers have any training or experience in law enforcement or security
matters? Even if a stranger goes to a lodging or hotel with bad intentions,
he’s not going to tell the desk clerk what those intentions are, so it would be
futile for the desk clerk to ask. In any case, lodgings in Kenya are
better known for clandestine sexual escapades than for terrorist activity,
which would make motel, hotel and lodging owners uneasy about interrogating
would-be lodgers. Picture, if you will, a drunken middle-aged man staggering up
to a desk clerk at a downtown motel with his arm draped over an equally drunk
miniskirt-clad twenty-something girl. The desk clerk opens his admissions book,
grabs a biro pen and says, ‘May I inquire as to why you need a room?’ The drunk
man stares at the clerk through an alcoholic haze, pulls his date closer into
his body, and says, ‘What? Isn’t that obvious?’ The clerk politely defends
himself by saying, ‘We are required to ask, Sir…It’s this terrorism thing.’ The
customer smiles and says, ‘Well, I intend ‘‘fire some shots’’…and you might
even hear some screaming…but believe me, I’m no terrorist!’
A after a decent interval, following Kenya’s
crushing victory, the sporadic attacks resumed. On Sunday, 4th
November 2012, a grenade went off in Garissa, killing an Administration Police
On Tuesday, 6th November 2012, an
improvised explosive device detonated in Nairobi’s
crowded Eastleigh area, injuring 2 people and
shattering the windows of a nearby matatu.
The explosion was suspected to be the work of Al-Shabaab although no group has
so far claimed responsibility.
township, where a series of explosions have taken place
In the bright, sunny, afternoon of November 18th
2012, a bomb ripped through a 25-seater matatu in Eastleigh,
killing 7 people and injuring 29 others. A man of Somali origin who had
disembarked the mini-bus just moments before the explosion was beaten to death
by area residents. The matatu was reduced to a shell.
On January 16th 2013, 5 people were
killed my militants in a restaurant in Garissa.
On April 18th 2013, another 6 people
were shot dead in Kwa Chege hotel in Garissa.
And then on 21st September 2013, a
bright Saturday afternoon, the prestigious Westgate mall in Westlands was
stormed by well-armed and well-prepared Al-Qaeda-linked militants, who not only
gunned down panicked shoppers but also held many others hostage inside the
large building. This lead to a four-day gunfight that with Kenyan security
forces, during which pistols, rifles, grenades and bazookas came into play.
Eventually, the militants were captured or killed but the damage was
unparalleled in recent memory. The terrorists had managed to kill over 60
people and injure over 170 others. Some have described this as incident as ‘Kenya’s 9/11’.
‘Panic! At The Disco’ is the name of an American
rock band but in Kenya,
that term is better suited to the issue of insecurity. As the sunlight dims on
any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening, colourfully-dressed youths still
gather in large numbers outside popular hangouts like Galileo Xtreme, Florida 2000
and Klub Bettyz, waiting to be screened so that they can gain the interior. But
one can’t help think that under their youthful exuberance, under their visceral
need to experience pleasure, under their determined faces and raging hormones,
there lurks a fear.