Wanyee road: The 24-hour criminal sin street driven by sex, drugs and alcohol

Wanyee Road

A view of Wanyee road in Maragua town. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

Wanyee road in Maragua town, Murang'a County is the only 24-hour economy street driven by the sin industry where the law sleeps at 11 pm and ushers in rule of the jungle.

The about 50 metres road is famed for alcohol, violence, sex and narcotics, while the gangs ruling in it recognise not the mighty and the weak, since a chief and his assistant are some of the victims who were attacked and injured on it.

 "When all the other town bars close at 11 pm, all with an appetite for adventure troops to this road...The end result is a congregation of the good and the bad and the result is runaway crime that knows no morals," says Mr Joseph Kanji, a trader along the road.

Area security despite having police reports by victims detailing the kind of crimes that result from the road, sees and hears no evil and continues to treat them as normal happenings.

The police station is reported by the security committee to be receiving on average five complaints on daily basis related to the incidents associated with the road.

 "People have been violently robbed, sexually assaulted, abducted by bodaboda riders and ending up robbed and dumped...including the two administrators who were recently attacked by a machete wielding criminal and the security still believes this is not bad enough," Mr Kanji said.

The gangs are feared to a point that not many tell police about the atrocities meted on them and those who dare make reports fail to get witnesses to support arrest and prosecutions.

But some victims argue that reporting is risky since some officers are known to be criminal accomplices who end up helping the criminals avenge against those opposing their capture. 

What makes the road tick is alcohol trade progressed by some tycoons who know no morals, proximity to the low income Mathare Estate and capture by a nearby Maica Ma Thi village gangs that use it as its night base.

Drug dealers

"It is where commercial sex workers, drug dealers and illicit brew gangs meet with the naive and the result is raw crime executed in utmost impunity," said an area Nyumba Kumi security initiative committee member.

Some alcoholics leaving bars on foot during the dead of the night end up trailed and attacked, robbed and some including males sexually assaulted.

 "On December 3, 2022, I boarded a boda boda outside the bar to go to Ichagaki village. The rider did not follow the known route and upon questioning, I was told we were first heading to a nearby fuel station. I ended up being abandoned near a dam about three kilometres away from the town, robbed and beaten up," says a man who also reported the ordeal to Maragua Police Station.

The criminal bodaboda operators do not belong to a Sacco, have their number plates altered, faked, removed or smeared with mud to conceal them, hence making it impossible to gather evidence against them.

A well-known male gang member operating from the road and aged only 19 was recently arrested near Thika town robbing motorists and pedestrians while armed with a toy pistol and is out on bond. 

Together with his cousin, they lead a gang that police numerously arrest but courts release them, legal pundits saying they face lenient charges and prosecution never proves commitment to push for conviction.

On January 24, Mercy Njoya was trailed by a three male gang as she left a bar situated along the road. The gang ended up petrol bombing her, where she suffered 55 percent body burns and died 13 days later.

No one has been arrested or charged with the incident, raising queries among locals on how area security team treats serious crimes.

The residents accuse some police officers of being accomplices to the gangs operating in the area on allegations that the powerful and moneyed criminal beneficiaries of the racket pay protection fee.
 
They also point a finger on rivalry between administrators and police on how to police the problematic road.

 "When the two administrators were attacked and hospitalised, police officers who were called delayed in coming and they never arrested the culprit until the media highlighted the issue," said a local administrator.

The police officers accused the administrators of arbitrary executing patrol and arrest functions without seeking armed escort.

They also said some of the criminals are in the protection of the administrators "since as locals, the administration has greater bond with residents and with ability to politicise our operations hence the caution we exercise in getting involved".

The Ichagaki Location Chief Daniel Kimani and his Rurago assistant, James Gachanja who were the victims of the attack were rushed to nearby Maragua Level Four Hospital.

The two had been tipped that the suspect who had several cases pending at Kigumo courthouse had been seen in the area delivering bhang to his commissioned retailers.

 “He was riding a motorcycle and the two government officers ambushed him as he parked so as to engage with one of his retailers. The officers grabbed him and a scuffle ensued. He reached underneath his garment and drew a machete. He attacked them on the hands and escaped into the backstreets of the town,” said David Kimutai, an eye witness.

In turn, the police officers complain that "some of the criminals are relatives of the administrators and there only arises complaints of convenience when the relatives fail to agree on criminal benefits".

Also raised as a concern is that some administrators have their backgrounds in chang'aa brewing families and are said to have a soft spot for the criminal industry that provided for their families back then.

But Murang'a South Deputy County Commissioner Gitonga Murungi says the situation is under serious profiling and measures to contain it underway.

Security committee

The administrator concedes that there are challenges in the way the road is policed, saying "as a security committee, we are laying out modalities to deal with the menace once and for all".

 Mr Murungi dismissed allegations of disunity among police and administrators as "nonsensical creations" adding that "we are one, working together seamlessly and with desire to give the residents utmost security".

He says the indiscipline along the said road is a combination of several factors.
 
"For instance, the liquor licensing court is going to be reconstituted and we are lobbying for it to encompass all key stakeholders," he said.

He added that "while we are satisfied that there is good will from the county government, the sub county security committee is not represented in the court".

He said some of the cited lapses are as a result of obligated respects across levels of government.

 "In the hesitance to overstep mandates and jurisdictions, we can delay in offering reprieve. We want to be very honest and that is why we are agonising on how to heal the defects making us appear non responsive," he said.
 
 Area politician and parliamentary aspirant Edwin Murira termed the incident as “degeneration of the area into a banana town.”

 Mr Murira said the government has been attacked, injured and hospitalised by a lone gangster armed with a machete and it is its turn to vindicate itself in the eyes of the public that it can defend itself and at the same time keep the people safe.

 As we stand, he added, it is impossible to tell who between government and the gangsters is more powerful.

 “The town had in the recent past started experiencing peace after area police station was restructured. The officers have justifiably even shot dead two most wanted criminals in the area but the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) started investigating the incidents and it has demoralized the officers," Mr Murira said.

He said that such scaremongering drives by IPOA have given criminals guts to dare the society and the security.

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