Diasporan Harassed at Artcaffe in Nairobi
On Saturday 10th December 2011 at 2.21pm, I met my Business Partner and Her friend at the Artcaffe in Junction Nakumatt Mall, Nairobi, Kenya. This was my first time to visit this establishment.
My Business Partner and I sat at a separate table from her friend as we were discussing our business.
After an hour, we paid for our drinks and snacks and left Artcaffe. We then went to the basement where I had packed my new Audi A4 to show them some handbags I had brought from London for my Business Partner. As they both looked at them (in my boot), 2 big burly men appeared from nowhere and asked us in very intimidating tones what we were doing. Before I could even answer those 2 KK Security men and a tall older looking Middle East man materialized. At this point I thought that we were either being car jacked or something was very wrong.
The 3 of us were shaken and wondering what was going on, I quickly explained that I was showing my 2 friends my new handbags. The Middle East man asked me to lock the boot and come aside. I did as he asked and my friends were standing on one side of the car and I was standing on the other with the Middle East man. He explained to me that we were suspected of stealing a hand bag and laptop from Artcaffe and they had CCTV footage proving this.
When I looked at him in disbelief, and asked him if we could go and see the CCTV footage he agreed. At this point 5 more KK Security men appeared and we were frog marched all the way to the Artcaffe. When we got there I demanded to see the CCTV footage, the Middle East man again pulled me aside and told me that I was not a suspect and that it was my business partner's friend who was. I told him that if that was the case I still wanted to see the footage and that I could not leave them.
After much confusion of whom had the footage, a short Middle East man accompanied by 2 Middle East women came with a laptop and the older tall Middle East man asked us to go to a handbag shop opposite Artcaffe to see the footage. When we got there, they then refused to show us the footage and told us that we were free to go. The old Middle East Man explained that it was a case of mistaken identity and that the handbag and laptop (which belonged to a tourist) had been stolen on 5th of December 2011.(please note, the 3 of us were not even in Nairobi on this date).
I looked at the elderly Middle East man in disbelief and asked him if he was the owner of Artcaffe, of which he vehemently denied that he was NOT and that he was a shop owner at the Mall and that we was trying to 'assist' us and the Artcaffe solve this issue. At this point a crowd of people and more KK Security had gathered round us.
I then confirmed with him again if we were free to go as we were not the suspects and he categorical said YES!
Disgusted and tired of the whole ordeal I asked my friends we leave and file a complaint later for this harassment.
As we approached the main exit/entrance of the Junction Mall, 5 KK Security men, stopped us and told us we were still suspects and that we should wait for the police to come.
I could not believe this nonsense, a Commander appeared in a KK Security Car with 3 other Security guards and blocked the exit/entrance and surrounded us and told us that we could not leave. I explained to him what had transpired in the last 1hour.
He then told me that the Elderly Middle East man was actually the owner of Artcaffe and that he had told the KK Security that he did NOT want Kikuyus (a major tribe in Kenya) in his premises as they are thieves and that he was 99% sure my business partner and her friend resembled the suspects in the video footage.
At this point it dawned on me that my business partner and her friend were not dressed according to the Artcaffe standard and they did not fit the so called urban chic criteria that can afford a meal at the Artcaffe. And I had been left out as I looked the part and drove an Audi A4!
The most ironic thing is that my Business Partner owns a very big NGO in Kenya that is supported by very many affluent people including 10 businessmen whose businesses are listed on the New York Stock Exchange!
To cut the long horrible ordeal short, we waited for 1.30 Hours for the Police to come, the police saw the footage of which they said that it was so unclear that one could not see the faces of the thief that stole on the 5th of December 2011(Please note it was only 1 thief not 3!)
We went to the nearest Police station (Muthangari Police Station) and wrote statements (although the Police insisted I was not a suspect) but I insisted on doing one as I do NOT Trust Artcaffe. The reason is that if the Owner can Lie to us with a straight face what can he do if given the chance???
My friend I urge you to please boycott this establishment that harasses innocent Kenyans, Racist, Classist and I strongly believe that we do not need foreigners (who we welcome with open hearts) to insight tribal HATRED in a Country that is only getting over the last Post Election Violence as we approach another Election.
Please pass this on.
By Becky Karanja, a London resident.