The return of Diani's nightlife

A street near the Tandoori International Club in Diani, Kwale County on May 29, 2024. Solar-powered street lights have helped improve safety and brought nightlife back to Diani.

Photo credit: Siago Cece | Nation Media Group

For more than five years, residents and tourists in Diani, Kwale County, have been at risk of attacks due to rising cases of insecurity.

This situation was fueled by a lack of street lights along Diani Beach Road, the town's busiest road.

Diani, a resort town, has been attracting revellers from across the globe, who enjoy the world-class beaches during the day and party at popular joints in the area at night.

In 2023, Diani Beach was named “Africa’s Leading Beach Destination” for the 11th successive time by the World Travel Awards (WTA), stamping its bragging rights as a favourite global tourism destination.

Away from the pristine beaches, popular hangout joints include Full Moon Club, Manyatta Disco, Palmer Club and Tandoori International Club, all situated along Beach Road.

However, criminal gangs engaging in muggings along the streets threatened the town’s glory.

So bad was the situation that residents would start deserting streets when darkness fell, affecting businesses.

Tourists in the 24-hour economy would frequently report attacks and mugging along the road, losing their valuables as they walked.

A spot check by Nation.Africa revealed night activities have resumed after the new streetlights were installed by the Kwale County Government.

Entertainment industry

Tourism stakeholders and those in the entertainment industry have equally lauded the installation of street lights since March this year, saying they are banking on them to boost their businesses further.

Stephen Mure, an entertainment manager at Sisi Kwa Sisi Entertainment Movement, said they now have confidence in organising night events.

He said most of the time, weekday and weekend parties feature invitations from top artists and DJs.

"Our numbers were being affected due to insecurity because many people would not want to show up and leave late after the parties," said Mr Mure.

Solar-powered street lights near the Full Moon Club along Daini Beach Road in Kwale County on May 25, 2024. Nightlife in the area has been revived after the lights helped reduce criminal attacks on revellers and tourists.

Photo credit: Siago Cece | Nation Media Group

He added that even though the area is now in a low business season, sales and activities will rise further towards the end of July when the peak tourism season begins.

He further urged the county government to ensure all the stretch between Jacaranda Beach Hotel and Neptune Beach Hotel has enough security lights.

Shaban Omar, a resident of Diani, said he is now confident of moving at night without fear of being attacked.

"I can comfortably run my errands or do my shopping at night because there is enough light," he said.

Police patrols

Msambweni OCPD Francis Gachoki said the lights also helped police patrol the area.

He, however, said there have not been any reported cases after the street lights.

"We would receive many cases of people being mugged on the road. Due to the dark and forested area, many gangs would hide in the area targeting tourists at night," he said.

An earlier solar street lighting project, installed in 2013, was vandalised as thieves stole the panels, solar chargers and bulbs, leaving streets empty and dark.

This limited tourists' movement at night, especially those accessing cottages from entertainment joints. The road also hosts most beach resorts and boutique hotels.

According to the Kwale County CEC for Trade and Tourism Michael Mutua, the move to light the streets was to improve the tourism business, which had been affected by insecurity.

"Normally, tourists want to take a night walk after having dinner. Most of them are also getting attracted to Diani because of the vibrant nightlife," he said.

Mutua said the administration would ensure the new solar lights are not vandalised.

"We have so far done 50 poles for about two kilometres which was a hotspot for crime. The design was different because the battery, the solar and the bulb are now fixed together and can hardly be vandalised," Mutua said.

He added that the rest of the road will be lit with about 161 poles in phases in the coming financial year on a budget of Sh28 million.

Mutua added that apart from the main road, his department would pave beach access roads with cabro and amenities such as public washrooms.

"We have spoken to some property owners to ensure they also take responsibility and help reduce vandalism of public resources such as street lights," said Mutua.

While launching the lights in March, Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani stated that the solar lights will also be a game changer in the transport sector, where bodaboda and tuk-tuks will work round the clock.