If one was to describe Kenya’s third largest city Kisumu in five minutes and 54 seconds, musician Suzanna Owiyo’s song Kisumu 100 would fit the bill.
Others describe Kisumu as Europe because of the latest developments in the city but the residents call it ‘Dala’ a luo word loosly translating to home.
On a random afternoon in the streets of Kisumu when the writer took a stride in the streets on a mission to discover the world of an unscrupulous group of businessmen.
Small circles of partially bored and curious groups of people are evident in several spots on the streets.
They operate mostly in downtown Kisumu around city park under the guise of running a lottery.
A group of men and women in a beehive of activities around a green tent.
You want my identity card number and full names?Mary Akinyi
Randomly they bust into residents with a congratulatory message, “You have won a jackpot!”
Mary Akinyi was restless as she spoke to one of the agents.
“You want my identity card number and full names?” she asked the lady.
The agent claiming to be an employee of a leading mobile phone company told Mrs Atieno to give out Sh8,000 to enable her process the jackpot.
Excited, Atieno quickly removes the money she had just borrowed from a bank to boost her business.
It was indeed a miracle because she had never participated in the said promotion.
The miracle ended after she got and tried to operate the new tablet and laptop which to date have never functioned.
Just like her many residents in Kisumu have been conned by the fraudsters believed to a cartel.
Many have been tricked into also giving their personal details, including M-Pesa and bank accounts only to discover later that their accounts have been emptied.
Vitalis Oyugi had an unforgettable encounter with one of the groups.
The team provides a platform where one plays and wins or loses.
A local version of professional gambling.
But on getting to my place, the thing was not even powering on,Vitalis Oyugi
Oyugi was walking to the bank when he was implored by one of the groups to try his luck.
“Jaribu bro, Leo ni siku yako,” they drew him.
He inquired and they told him to scratch a coupon card worth Sh1000 to win an electronic gift.
“We have some electronics. You win, we give you your due,” they told him.
“They gave me a laptop and a blender,” Oyugi narrated saying he confirmed the laptop was working when he got it.
“But on getting to my place, the thing was not even powering on,” he lamented.
He could not believe it. He was dumbfounded.
“It’s like they make you think it is working when in a real sense, it’s not.”
The case is no different for Mama Nereah Atieno who lost fees in a manner he is yet to comprehend to date.
He had Sh10,000 meant for school fees in her handbag.
“I had not deposited the money. I hate bank queues and so I was waiting for a time when bank customers are few.”
After about an hour of doing her business in town she decided to head back to a bank to deposit the fees.
” I had a few customers in my hotel so I decided to use the opportunity,” she said as revealed his fees was missing.
She was told to pick a card. The lead gambler then shook her hand.
“I swear they used some juju on me because I can’t remember playing. But when I came to my senses, my handbag was gone,” she said.
I went to the police after and they were so rude I gave up and leftVitalis Oyugi
Shockingly, the scammers operate in the full glare of the public.
They pitch their tents at strategic points in the city.
Their preferred areas include City square, area around Equity bank, Oile park, around sports ground.
Time and again, the public has complained that even after reporting the crimes, no action is taken and justice remains a dream.
” I went to the police after and they were so rude I gave up and left,” Oyugi said.
“They even asked me how I expected them to trace and arrest the suspects if I couldn’t find them after the game. I lost Sh3000 and important credentials that were in the bag.”
For Nereah, reporting the incident to the police did not yield the desired results.
“They told me they were going to nab the woman. I am still waiting,” she said.
“It is so sad that we are suffering as the police watch. I wonder how many scamming cases they get per day and how many are arraigned and punished for it,” she added.
They even used blogger to say that I have been extorting traders in towDaniel Onyona
In an attempt to stop the business one of the Kisumu County enforcement officers Daniel Onyona was threatened by the individuals who he says are after his life.
Onyona says the individuals who he identified as Philip kivuva Mihari and Mark Omondi who are the lead cartels in the business threatened to make him lose his job.
“They even used blogger to say that I have been extorting traders in town,” he narrates.
Onyona further revealed that the gamblers are not lincesed but are gurded by goons on the streets and even some section of police officers.
Despite various measures to stop the cartels being conned in the city still remains not only a lucrative business but also a norm that plays out in the open.
The residents are now calling on the city leadership to take action.