Tagged in the vast Kisaju plains, there emerges a fast developing Olturoto town dotted with schools and government establishments, Writes Alex Sautet.
Olturoto town is located 11km from the Nairobi-Namanga highway turnoff as you approach Kisaju town.
This fast developing trading centre is becoming famous for all the bad reasons, and is now a threat to the local societal fabric in terms of security and health of school going children now indulging in drugs.
The centre which its development is attributed to the presence of public learning institutions and government offices is ceaselessly growing.
Local communities resident around the outskirts of this growing urban centre are complaining loudly about the rise of illicit brew outlets, sex trade, and sale of bhang in the open by gangland groups right in the faces of government security agencies in the area.
Prostitution is regarded as the oldest profession in the world and in the Nairobi’s Majengo slum, commercial sex has been practiced since the early 1920’s. Parts of the country are now receiving their fair share of this ‘business’, but with their hidden intrigues.
Some of the residents, who talked to us in camera, point an accusing finger at the provincial administration and police for turning a blind eye at gangland groups that are now threatening the lives of school-going children and youth alike.
A local beer bar that has been licensed by the authorities is a stone-throw from secondary and primary schools within the town’s vicinity.
Although a senior teacher in a local secondary school mentioned the presence of cartels selling bhang to students early in the year, many of his colleagues have chosen not to speak about it for fear of their lives.
Dominant community here is the Kaputiei Maasai, but what is traumatizing more is the fact that no one can raise a finger against the growing trade in illicit substances that have found ways to the local homes.
Caleb Sankan, a resident of Oloosidan area that borders Olturoto, is shocked that all that is happening on the face of the government that is represented by a local chief.
“Everything here is all wrong, and it is also wrong for the residents to keep quiet the bad things we see happening to our youth and school-going children. The next thing we are going to get out of here and all these wrong things are zombies out of our children,” said Sankan.
Sankan went on; “In the 90s when we were growing up, this town never existed, but with years it has broadened to become one of the most aggravating structures ever commissioned”.
The villager said it is apparent there are positive effects with the establishment of two dispensaries and shops which have brought services closer to the people.
In 2016 when President Uhuru Kenyatta decreed clampdown on illicit brew across the country, Maa community women thronged this centre and damaged hundreds of litres of alcohol and shutdown some bars.
Sanity for once trended again, but was short-lived. Later on, the proliferation of alcohol retailers was seen again, this time spreading like bush fire.
We have grown complacent young boys dropping out of school, especially in secondary school level immediately they indulge in drugs.
Another resident, Peter ole Leina, told KNU that he was once mugged while heading back home from Olturoto by young men who he later came to learn were from his neighbourhood. They were high on bhang.
Locals have for long, lamented on the investment in excessive recreational avenues by traders.
Within the heart of the menial centre exists three video show halls which mostly attract primary school children, who reportedly feign sickness in a bid to miss school for the sake of video show.
“It is dangerous for young kids to be in there because such entertainment amenities act as hideouts for thugs,’ noted Sankan.
The collapse and failure of many marriages has in the area has also been attributed to changed lifestyle caused on young men and women in use of hard substances.
Evidently sex trade has gained impetus within the past few years. Most of the sex traders arrive in the guise of bartenders.
Young men assemble in bars in the evenings to drink, wasting all their day’s hard earned wages leaving their young families under precarious conditions.
Their wives are forced to work under deplorable conditions to feed children because their fathers spend every opportunity with sex traders in the urban market.
But one of the women, Sisily Mwende who has been suspected to be ‘netting’ young men for paid sex, said she does not call them but go to her on their volition.
“It is true we charge them for the services we provide, but we do not force them to sleep with us. Where on earth cannot you give free services, they must pay for what they get from us,” said Mwende.
According to a communication from one local dispensary, sexually transmitted diseases have risen in the last five months within Olturoto urban centre.
Leah Wangari, a resident who hail from Kiambu, told KNU she lost her husband, courtesy to immorality within the urban centre.
“My husband moved to Olturoto town with a sole purpose of working because he is a mason. Normally he would come home every Friday evening. One month down the line the zeal of homecoming drastically decreased. He would even barely make a call. By that time, our firstborn child was joining secondary school, she had been accepted at Senior Chief Koinange Girls High School,” said Wangari.
She adds; “Money was a key element therefore, and I was not worried in anyway because I knew he would make the necessary provisions, but to my shock, my husband, Kiarie changed his phone number and wasn’t available anymore”.
“I went through a lot trying to make ends meet by myself. I had to commute all the way, and mostly depending on the magnanimity of strangers for direction. It wasn’t difficult to trace him, thanks to the miniature status of the town. He had settled with a woman only identified as Mbithe,” she said.
Wangari said she almost collapsed after finding her husband with another woman.
“That is the last day I ever saw him. That market centre is dangerous. I had known my husband to be straightforward and decent. I can’t tell what sedated him,” she said sobbing.
In 2015 when police officers from Isinya raided the town, while on patrol, they were waylaid and roughed up by a group of fifty men.
Residents say that turn-around marked a continuous trend in the town where gangland thugs are seen to have intimidated police officers.
“The habit became a trend since then. There are few policemen mandated to maintain order within but by and large seemingly are seen conniving with drunkards for kickbacks,” claimed a resident in camera.
Cases of burglary haven’t been reported apart from a few occasions assumed normal by residents but the host community feels the heat.
The Maasai are known to be pastoralists, their animals customarily feed by themselves during seasons of plenty pasture.
Cases of stock theft have been reported in the area in the past and are increasing by the day as school dropouts among boys is becoming common occurrence.
Once the boys drop out of school because of hard drugs, they will require maintaining their supply of the hard stuff, and where resources are scarce, they will turn to stock theft, says a village elder, who decided to remain anonymous.
“I personally lost five sheep and two goats to thieves. Living close to this centre has by far negatively affected us. We cannot take severe actions against those thugs because they are our children in essence. The motherly love and pity supersedes all the agony caused,” said Mary Siimoi
My homestead is 2km from Olturoto trading centre but imagine my son does not come home. Our children have become shame agents to us in lieu of prosperity mongers. What baffles me is whom do we blame on this anyway?” asked Siimoi.
Two Kilometres east of Olturoto town is a river which mostly isn’t navigable during rainy seasons.
Cases of people drowning to death have increased in the recent past as drunkards force their way to pubs and get swept away.
During the previous rainy season one man was rescued when he was almost dyeing.
Tyson Kipiru, who lives on the other side of the river, but close to its banks, has been a witness and spectator of the happenings.
“I was the one who rescued the victim. He chose not to lend anyone his attention when advised not to cross the filled river. We watched from a distance with a friend, within minutes we started wailing for help. Luckily I’m a good swimmer, and so I did the necessary before the matter got out of hand,” said Kipiru.
When Kipiru later inquired from him why it has been so intrinsic for him to cross the river while drunk, he said; “This town is like a drug, once you’re in, there is never a turn back, very addictive.”
With drug consumers being the governing force, violence of all nature are a norm in this nightmarish trading centre.
Reportedly, it is said a night never passes without fights’ casualties being admitted in the nearby dispensaries.
Ranging from knife stabbing to rape cases, amorphous, and or vague activities unfold each day and night.
“One particular case is when a young man from this neighbourhood drugged a lady and slept with her unwillingly. When people caught wind of the issue he fled the area. We hear he works in a Nairobi-based hotel these days,” said John Oidimu, a local resident.
Oidimu says the cat by the boy was most foul, shameful, and vile especially for a university student like him.
He said the fellow later on dropped out of school.
“The reduction of pubs and strict adherence to the infamous “Mututho Laws” will by far ameliorate the situation,” said Oidimu, who is also a businessman in this sprawling urban centre.
Even as residents of locations bordering Olturoto town continue to exude discomfort, unhappiness and total rage, the vices being carried on at the trading centre continue unabated.