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Diaspora visitor harassed at Artcaffe in Nairobi

Posted by Administrator on December 12, 2011

By Becky, a London resident

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 partners 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.

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12 Responses to “Diaspora visitor harassed at Artcaffe in Nairobi”

  1. bemused_in_nairobi@yahoo.com said

    This is beyond ridiculous – have you followed up with the police since then? For some reason I have never been “drawn to” the Artcaffe – you have now given me a reason not to set foot there, seeing that I do not want to be intimidated and that my dressing may not be “up to par”. I think you should tweet this story.

  2. Kate said

    Shame what a shame….! the tribe of 10 millionaires versus 10 million poor Kenyans.

  3. kimotho said

    that’s very very ridiculous in Kenyan today which is under new constitution dispensation.You should file a formal complain so as to stop such acts in future.Those people owe you an apology.

    Maybe if you were not there,your friends would have landed in cell for a mistaken identity.

  4. Kangemi said

    Whatever happened there is not news to me. Those in the diapora that make it to Kenya on a regular basis know that discrimination is rife in Kenya. Try pratonizing many Indian or Arabic establishments. Worse yet, their African workers will side with their bosses to intimidate you. I once was subject to horrible treatment at the offices of Chatur Group in Parklands – yes, the same guy been sued for sh200million for a short marriage-by his African receptionist when I went to inquire about a sh 12000 electric bill which normally ran at sh2500. She gave me a stern warning that she can have may water disconnected too.
    I have been at the KRA office and hospital ques where Indians, Arabs and whites skip the line while Africans wait patiently. Either places, I raised hell and was nearly thrown out by African watchmen and workers. We are our own worst enemies. Whenever I hear people crying of discrimination here in the states, they simply don’t know how worse it can get in Kenya.
    Speaking of Muthangari Police Station, there is one Corporal Moses(he has a Kisii accent) attached to that police station who has given me hell on James Gichuru road on three different occassions. He will always find fault in your driving, your documents or your vehicle no matter how compliant you try to be. As straight as you want to be, you end up parting with a few hundred shillings lest you spend hours and hours at the station where you run the risk of being thrown in cells for made up charges. A couple of friends in my stateside neck of the woods spent a night at Central Police Station on made up charges when they refused to give bribes…you can never win.
    When I see diaspora folks go to Kenya and party for three weeks and come back here to tell everyone how great things are in Kenya, I always know they don’t have a clue as they have never tried the mundane daily living challenges.

  5. mcben said

    so sad……have you followed up with the police…….and the management of KK security?

  6. Cadest said

    How do you think we survive, those of us you left here in Kenya, at home, on a daily basis? Please reconsider this statement “When I see diaspora folks go to Kenya and party for three weeks and come back here to tell everyone how great things are in Kenya, I always know they don’t have a clue as they have never tried the mundane daily living challenges.”

    • Kangemi said

      I have seen diaspora folks move permanently back to Kenya and party for a couple of months, run out of money and have a hard time trying to make it in Kenya. If your folks are not monied and you didn’t bring any back home, life will be twice as hard. I have seen a couple of folks move right back to the states and Europe because they didn’t realize it took that much to make it in Kenya,

  7. steven said

    am totally disgusted by the situation,its sad this things still happen in the 21st century in our country 48yrs after Independence.I was in the same place in August took my nieces there and the Kenyans working there were very friendly and helpful.We live abroad go through this things everyday the last thing is that kind of nonsense to happen when u are in your home country

  8. soul said

    This is beyond stupidity; yes it we do have some racial situations but what you have described here isn’t one of them. You seem angry with artcaffe, in actual fact the security there is hired by the junction group and not artcaffe. Yes they might have been wrong in suspecting you as those who stole the hand bag and the laptop days earlier. Then again I would assume they have to follow all the leads in order to get those who stole the items earlier, of course it’s illogical to assume they will be aware that you and your friends came into the country on Tenth other than on the fifth, the fact the you sat o separate table it is rather suspicions wouldn’t you think. Also you selling handbags to the same people you purportedly arrived with is disturbing…your are a liar

    I find this hard to believe, are you telling us they picked you guys out simply because you looked kikuyu, How does a kikuyu look like, as far as am concerned they pretty much look like any other Bantu community.

    What is this artcaffe dress code you talk of? Frankly your thinking is silly just because you drive an Audi A4 you automatically were set free. That is incorrect and you’re being unfair to yourself and all other Kenyans when you make such insinuations. It is people like you who keep taking us back. This is case of mistaken identity with the current rise in insecurity you would imagine that we would be thankful that we have people doing something about it, If indeed you feel this was racial then you need to take the establishment to court am sure if what you say is true they shall be dealt with, if you lying you will be delt with.

    also you guys commenting you should learn to think critically this Beckie chick reads like a fraud.

    Thank you and merrry chrismass

    also beckie return that laptop i think you stole it hence, am not wishing you merry chrismass coz i once lost a laptop to a chick who drives a audi it was after 5th December

  9. Anti-Artcaffe said

    Oh, cmon Soul! Have they hired you to talk smack? I was there on that very Saturday, saw some commotion & settled for Phoenician! I have been racially discriminated against before in the artefact store at the Hilton arcade to the left (coming from kencom). I was buying stuff worth over 5000K & when I inquired about the price the black attendant kept shrugging me off. A white guy came in & he rushed 2 him saying I love your hat (an ugly dirty one)! He was well attended to yet he never bought jack!

    • Soul said

      Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist it does although this particular situation isn’t one of them. What the writer here is doing is trying to make it seem that the artcaffe personnel and the security did what they did simply because they were kikuyu. I don’t believe this one bit she seems to be misrepresenting what happened. And yes I have also been in situations where white and even people of Asian decent are given preferential treatment over me then again how is discriminatory when both parties are of the same race..

  10. Oleja said

    I believe this is a simple case of communication breakdown. Kenya being what it is, watchmen are not known to exercise the best of courtesy, other than that I don’t think this was an issue of discrimination. There’s no way the guards would have known that you drive an Audi if it was parked all the way in the basement, nor would they have been aware on your travel and arrival dates. Do I believe that you were harassed ? Yes I do, as a rule of thumb Kenyan business establishments have very poor or non existent customer service but in your case I don’t see any proof of racial/ethnic harassment. Ive been to the artcaffe in my shorts and sandals, no one mentioned anything to me about a dress code.

    On another note there is plenty of racial/tribal/ethnic harassment and prejudice in many of the upscale establishments in Kenya. A few years ago I was part of an organization that had taken US college students to do some volunteer work in Eastern province. On the last day of the tour, one of the politicians in whose constituency we had set up a library decided to treat us for lunch at the Norfolk. I was shocked when we were entering the idiot at the door stopped me and asked me where I was going. when a mzungu in the group turned back to say something to me, the door man apologized and said “pole sikujua uko nao” . Needless to say I almost ripped the man a new a..hole. The ruckus that ensued was good entertainment for passersby. A kenyan in independent Kenya cannot walk into an establishment without the company of a foreigner. Its a good thing the manager profusely apologized and made nice. I hope they’ve changed their attitude and manners.

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