Tag Archives: crime

Urban legend

Keep walkingNairobi, Nairobbery, they say. One of those places you’d never want to visit.

Except that you do, because there’s a buzz about this place and stuff happening like nowhere else on the continent: the developers and innovators building ‘silicon savannah’; the newspapers and corporations making this the bolshy media and business capital of East Africa; the donor money settling in offices here, trailing the idealistic and the cunning behind.

This is no hilly Kampala with her jovial motorbike-taxi drivers, or Dar es Salaam with her Indian bingo clubs and beach bars. This beast of a city has everything in more extreme measures: more choking traffic, more crime, more high-rise buildings and more low-rise shanty towns and all the problems they bring. Continue reading

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New Vision and the Thieves

_NewVision of the Thieves

There’s a whole story behind this photo that I don’t have, but what I do know is: this is the Local Council, a one-room building not far from Kazo Playground. The guy sitting down is the ‘Defence’.  The two young men being photographed, by a New Vision journalist, have been taken in (arrested?); their shirts are tied together. At first, I was told they were thieves. Later, someone said they were homeless and caught squatting.I never found out what they really did. Continue reading

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Preaching prejudice

Prayer mountainSundays in Kazo start noisily.

Angry yelling pastor and his clapping wailing fainting congregation start before 6am and they don’t let up till late morning – or maybe it’s later; by 11am I’ve usually hit my limit and gone to find somewhere quieter in central Kampala.

There are other distractions: rain battering our corrugated iron roof, the radio fizzling in and out of reception, someone’s phone playing crackly music, kids chanting over and over at the school opposite: LETTA A, LETTA B! TODAY IS TUESDAY! WE ARE FINE THANK YOU TEACHER MAURINE! SCHOOL FEES, SCHOOL FEES! But none of it, not even Dad’s occasional late-night liquor-induced grumbling, drives me to curse the way the shouting born-agains do. Continue reading

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A bad name

“I strip Dar es Salaam of the ‘haven of peace’ title!!!”, commented a Dar resident on Facebook. The discussion was about the rise in violent crime here – more on that topic another day – but it could just as easily refer to the current religious tension in the city.

Tanzania is home to 120+ tribes. Mosques and churches and temples sit next to one another without a bother, as do their followers. At a training session for grassroots leaders we organised a few months ago, I was impressed by the mix of faces I saw. At the end of the day, a group of Catholic sisters asked the Muslim participants if they could end by singing a blessing. The latter agreed, and we all listened patiently as the song filled the room.

But it’s not always so civil. The latest story – after the somewhat more predictable reactions following the Innocence of Muslims – sounds almost too ridiculous to be true. A 14-year old boy peed on a Koran, following a dare from his Muslim friend. Continue reading

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Bad news

“I have some bad news”, said my colleague, when I answered her call on Sunday. So she wasn’t calling to check I’d got back from Zanzibar in one piece – since there was yet another ferry sinking recently, Tanzanians are a bit nervous about boat trips. No, she had bad news, and oddest of all I didn’t get that sudden heart-sinking feeling you usually get when you hear those words, because I knew it was coming, knew all along there’d be a story from among my colleagues at some point, even dreamt a few days ago that one of them was killed in a car crash.

Not a traffic accident this time but cerebral malaria. JD, our gardener/groundsman – the one who told me just a few days ago with an earnest face that I looked good, I was getting fat – had got sick fast, had been brought to hospital and then sent home, got worse, and then died, leaving a wife and five kids behind. Continue reading

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Blissfully uneventful

Family portrait

Landing was just the beginning.

It’s not only Kigoma’s runway that’s not paved; most roads in the region – far from any big city and close to the borders with stricken Burundi and DR Congo – are rough roads.

Driving from village to village, thick clouds of dust swell with every passing vehicle, turning the roadside vegetation orange-brown. We narrowly miss a dog, a goat, and a huge lizard that runs across the road; a bird is less fortunate. One afternoon, in Kigoma town, a man has collapsed in the middle of a main road: he tries to get up, but fails. Malaria? Something else? Just drunk, it turns out.

When I buy my bus ticket for the return journey towards Dar, I get a seat number that’s next to one of two armed guards. My colleagues had been joking all week about what we do when we meet the bandits.
Continue reading

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Fashion on the farm

Spice farm style

Trying not to write another blog post about crime in this city, because I’m sick of hearing about it, talking about it, even dreaming about it. So maybe: something about the absurdity of days here? A morning struggling through the thick knots of desparate, angry young men in the city centre – taxi drivers that nearly start a fight to get your custom, snarling market hawkers resentful of your rich white faces, opportunist thieves and their violent fists – and the same evening, finding yourself admiring the modern art and marble worktops of a four-bathroomed apartment with sea view and private gym.

I hate lazy travel writing that sums up a destination as a place of contrasts – you can always find them if you look – but I can’t get away from the disjointed reality of Tanzania sometimes. Continue reading

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Trepidation / Inspiration

Putting things positively

Bad experiences accumulate: another friend gets violently robbed. It’s hard to resist the negative feeling that causes, especially when they talk about giving up and going home.

But the good Tanzania is also a bit contagious – the little sparks of inspiration here and there that remind me I’m not done here yet, only just beginning to get to the good stuff.

There’s actually no shortage of media setting out to change the negative images we have, to tell more good stories out of Africa. By now they too seem to be becoming a bit clichéd.

Even better is encountering the positive stuff directly.

In no particular order, then, some of the people I’ve met recently who aint put off by what can be an unforgiving climate to actually make things happen: Continue reading

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Morning warning

At least there aren’t many wild animals in Dar

One of those ubiquitous white 4x4s cut across my path on the way to work this morning, pulling up in front of me. The driver didn’t say “hello sister” or “hey mzungu”, just a polite “excuse me?”, so I stopped. He was a mzungu too: maybe he needed directions.

“You are aware that there’ve been a lot of bag snatchings on this road,” he says, a statement more than a question.

On this main road, at 8am, with a constant stream of jeeps and bajajis and pedestrians all on their way to work? I sigh: “Yeah I know… it’s usually ok in the mornings though…”

Poor naïve girl, says the look he gives me. Continue reading

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Crime scene

Survived my first drive-by mugging attempt yesterday. Luckily they were truly rubbish at it: the car was too far away so the guy leaning all the way out of the passenger window couldnt quite reach my bag to pull it off my shoulder. Even luckier, it was one of the rare days I was carrying both a camera and a laptop. What a rookie.

By now I’ve realised that almost every expat you talk to has a similar story. Some are a bit scary – being dragged along the road as they try to wrestle the bag off your shoulder. And the leafy, quiet neighbourhood popular among expats where I live seems to be one of the worst places. Still, it’s not till it happens to you that you actually take it seriously. So thank you, useless muggers, for reminding me to be more careful.

 

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