A crime wave involving boda bodas has hit the country leaving many victims in its wake.
From Mombasa at the Coast to Nairobi, Nyeri and Busia border, there are chilling stories of people who have been attacked by gangsters on boda bodas.
Boda bodas have become the popular form of transport in Kenya, six years after then-Finance Minister Amos Kimunya zero-rated tax on all motorcycles below 250cc.
The decision, Mr Kimunya said, was aimed at providing employment to the youth.
Today, one can buy a motorbike with as little as Sh30,000.
The jobs to the youth objective has no doubt been achieved as there are many places across the country not served by public transport where the boda bodas are useful.
However, infiltration of the sector by gangs has left authorities and citizens scratching their heads on how to respond.
The Nation investigations have established that robbers prefer motorcycles because they provide a quick means to escape after committing crime.
In urban areas, riders easily manoeuvre through traffic jams to escape.
“Gangsters on motorcycles” has become common place and is giving police a headache, especially in Nairobi and other urban areas.
One of the latest incidents in Nairobi happened on Wednesday night.
Police killed two suspected gangsters on a boda boda in Riruta who shot at the officers when challenged to stop.
The two were shot dead on Kabiria Road. Police found a mini Ceska pistol with no ammunition. They also seized the motorcycle.
Nairobi Police Commander Joseph ole Tito confirmed that motorcycles are the choice of many gangsters.
He said: “It has not come as a surprise. Neither is it something new.
“A majority of those who want to commit crime will always want to jump onto a motorcycle. Although we have not recorded an increase, we still have isolated cases.”
In Githurai 44, another rider was fatally shot by police who responded to a distress call by a resident identified as Josephat Mwangi.
The officers said the slain man was part of a gang who had arrived there using a motorcycle. His accomplices escaped.
In other cases, criminals use bikes to move around while scouting for premises to raid, or potential victims while a car is parked a distance away to ferry the loot.
In Nakuru, the most affected areas are Kivumbini, Lake View, Kwa Rhoda, Kaptembwa, Flamingo, Kaloleni and Bondeni.
Residents say the attacks happen quickly leaving victims confused and traumatised as the assailants vanish into thin air.
An incident occurred last Friday in town outside Kenya Commercial Bank where a man who had withdrawn money was robbed by a gun-wielding criminal who fled on a motorcycle.
On March 26, a boda boda rider attacked two police recruits who had graduated from Kiganjo College, leaving one with serious injuries.
The graduate police officers identified as Ann Naliaka Wariaba and Oliver Wekesa Wafula were attacked at Kaptembwa in Nakuru Town.
The incident was reported at Kaptembwa police station. They had made a stopover in Nakuru on their way to Bungoma.
Mr Wafula – who was stabbed in the shoulder – told the Nation they had booked a room in Nakuru Town and were attacked by a boda boda rider who had offered to ferry them to go look for dinner.
The assailant rode to an isolated area before he attacked them using a sword.
On the night of February 11, 14 passengers in a Nairobi-bound matatu were subjected to a three-hour robbery ordeal on the Nakuru-Naivasha highway.
The five-man gang accosted the victims when the vehicle they were travelling in stopped to drop a passenger at Karai, near Naivasha.
One of the victims, Nahashon Berkebo, told the Nation that the gang members drove the vehicle into a bush where all the passengers were robbed.
The assailants then fled on motorcycles they had summoned.
A number of other incidents of mugging have been reported in Nakuru in which motorcycle rider criminals snatch handbags from women.
Ms Mary Nyambura, 25, a victim, said she was robbed of her handbag while heading home at Langa Langa estate.
“I lost Sh3,000 and the bag. I was walking home with a friend when the man on the pillion snatched my handbag as they took off,” she said.
Sadly, the Nation established few cases are reported to the police.
Most victims say they prefer to suffer in silence because chances of the criminals being apprehended are minimal.
“I rather not report because it takes long for a culprit to be arrested,” another victim, Ms Mourine Nyagah, said.
Mr Norman Kuria, a boda boda operator in Nakuru Town, said even honest boda boda operators fall victim to gangs.
But County Police Commander Hassan Barua said that most of the crimes are not reported.
“Residents should be candid to report such incidents,” he said.
In Embu, there have been violent confrontations between students of University of Embu and boda boda operators in Kangaru over increased cases of theft.
The students, at one point, attempted to lynch a rider, accusing him of being a member of a gang that has been robbing them of laptops and mobile phones.
The riders retaliated, damaging a hostel occupied by the students in Iveche.
However, Embu West DCIO George Etyang said only a few criminals use boda bodas.
In Nyeri, riders have accused police officers of working with criminals who operate using motorbikes to steal from residents.
According to Charles Ndegwa, the boda boda chairman in the county, there has been a surge in the number of criminals on motorbikes yet the cases are never acted upon when reported.
But Nyeri Central OCPD Benard Kioko said no cases had been reported.
In Kisumu, Mr Eric Nyabiobo, a resident, last week took to social media to sound an alarm over the rising cases of motorbike robbers.
He narrated how one of his colleagues was attacked by a rider at 8pm as he came from work.
In Busia, two suspected boda boda gangsters were lynched on Tuesday by locals minutes after robbing a businessman of Sh1.6 million at Legio Estate.
The gangsters also target riders, with more than 10 losing their lives in the past two months and 50 motorcycles being stolen.
Safety tips: How to avoid being a victim
When boarding a motorbike at night, take note of the following:-
1. Only board a motorbike of someone you know;
2. If you board one of someone you are not sure of, use only those at the designated bases;
3. Avoid any motorcycle operator whose rear number plate is bent upwards;
4. Don’t disclose the exact place you are going, leave him guessing your exact destination at night;
5. Beware of the conversation of the rider, especially at night to enable you change strategy if in doubt;
6. Alight if possible where there is light to be able to see who is pulling by.