Monday, January 29, 2007


Row over Kenya's crime curfew
By Wanyama Chebusiri BBC News, Nyeri.

Some 25 people have lost their jobs at the White Rhino Hotel. Kenya's authorities have imposed a curfew in the central town of Nyeri to curb widespread crime in the area.
Nyeri District Commissioner Michael Mwangi says the town has seen a rise in muggings and carjackings, which he blames on an increase in alcohol consumption and the growth of nightclubs.
All bars and clubs have been ordered to close business by 2300, sparking uproar among revellers and business people.
Nyeri, some 150 kilometres from the capital, Nairobi, is President Mwai Kibaki's home town and he represents a constituency in the area. It is the only town in Kenya were such action is being taken.
Lost business
"Rampant insecurity was the order of the day in Nyeri town. Street mugging, carjacking, thuggery were common occurrence, this is why the district security committee and the local liquor licensing committee agreed that we must control the consumption of alcohol," said Mr Mwangi.
My husband comes home early and I am no longer worried about him being arrested or getting mugged
Janet NjokiHowever, bar and nightclub operators say these security measures which have been characterised by massive police swoops, are undermining economic activity in the town.
They say business has reduced drastically since the curfew was introduced.
"I have laid off more than 25 workers because I can no longer afford to pay them. Most hotels and bars have lost close to 80% of business because customers no longer frequent the places due to these rules," says Lucy Kairo, a representative of the Nyeri Bar and Hotels Owners Association.
The order has drawn mixed reactions from local residents.
Some women in Nyeri town are happy about these new restrictions.
Safe town
"I support these laws because now my husband comes home early and I am no longer worried about him being arrested or getting mugged in the middle of the night," said Janet Njoki.
Bar patrons and youth however argue the order is curtailing their freedom and want it revoked.
"The police are trained to search and identify criminals - closing bars early does not make any sense - they should look for them elsewhere not where people are enjoying their hard-earned cash peacefully," says John Njagi.
But the district commissioner insists that since the introduction of the order, criminality has dropped by 60% and Nyeri town is now one of the safest places in Kenya today.


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