Every market, so goes the saying, has a mad man. But pray, what could be wrong when one of the most populous constituencies in one of Kenya’s largest city is inhabited by hordes of young mad men- screamers who roam aimlessly spewing unprintable expletives in the shopping centres, streets and pathways of residential estates day and night?
Welcome to Kisauni constituency in Mombasa. Apart from the mad men, you will also not fail to come across pick-ups ferrying people and property leaving the area. For in the past few months, it has become inhabitable because of the high number of criminals.
“The young mad men you are encountering around are former criminals who are bearing the consequences of their actions. Fed up with their criminal ways that have brought down the economy of the formerly vibrant area to its knees, local religious teachers (Ustadhs) began invoking revered curses on evildoers and the wrath of God has now caught up with them,” Sheikh Ali Haji, a local religious leader discloses.
Known as Albadiri, the curse, which can only be invoked by the religious teachers, is unleashed on wrongdoers in general as a last resort without specifying their names because religion frowns on cursing people directly. However as Sheikh Ali explains it is permissible to curse criminals in general when their evil deeds perturb society and leave grave consequences, as has happened in the constituency.
Although the effects of this curse are said to be varied, it is a mystery among locals why it is exclusively unleashing insanity on the wayward youth of Kisauni.
The formerly populous estates in the constituency mostly inhabited by the Swahili Arab community and upcountry people that include Mwandoni, Barsheba, Mlaleo and Mshomoroni are now ghost towns.
The upcountry people have been leaving in droves to other safer estates after suffering under the hands of the vicious criminal gangs whose names keep mutating from Wakali Wao, Wakali Kwanza amongst a host of other names. This migration has led to the loss of rental income, therefore adversely affecting the local economy.
The sheer magnitude of the crimes committed by these gangs is reportedly what forced the religious teachers to resort to the dreaded Albadiri curse and its effects are there for all to see.
The sight of grown-up men walking and shouting while stark naked and urinating openly is common in this area, also long associated with drugs abuse.
“People have been killed. Both men and women have been sexually abused and others have been rendered destitute after the criminals struck and carted away with everything. Something had to be done and the effects have been so drastic. The government through the Coast regional administrator had tried and failed to contain the menace and so it was left to the religious leaders to deal with this menace in their own way,” Sheikh Ali says.
Sheila Shirasala, an upcountry middle aged woman who resided in Mwandoni but moved out after only one month shared her experience with Crazy Monday.
“I was escorting my younger sister who is a trader at Kongowea market to work in the morning when we were accosted by a group of four young menacing gangsters armed with knives and swords. Although I had seen reports in the media of these youths sucking women’s breasts after robbing them, I was not prepared for what I went through.
“After robbing us, they had a different script for us. One of them asked that I perform oral sex on him at knife point. I actually did not understand what he meant until he verbally issued instructions on what I was to do as his colleagues watched gleefully,” she painfully recalls.
The woman says even after brushing her teeth and cleaning her mouth each and other hour after the ordeal, she still feels dirty. She has even tried herbal concoctions, adding that she and her sister moved out of the area hours later.
As another incident confirms, it is not only women who have fallen victim to the weird ordeals at the hands of these criminals. Men too, have tales to tell. A woman who only identified herself as Suzanna told Crazy Monday that her husband, a teacher at a local school, came home late at night last month from a drinking spree, complaining that he had been attacked by criminals who stole his money, hurt him and unimaginable things to him.
“I could not see any physical injury although he was complaining of pain. In the morning when he woke up, he would not speak of the ordeal and in fact became moody, irritable and prone to anger since then. He became completely withdrawn, I became worried,” Suzanna says.
Much later, during pillow talk, her tipsy husband revealed the puzzle of his behavioural change and Suzanna wished he had continued to keep it to himself.
“After much nagging and probing, he began sobbing and crying loudly. When I pressed on, he confessed he had been waylaid by three young men who raped him in turns,” avers Suzanna.
Alamin Siwa Somo who owns prominent Mombasa housing agent firm- Shekha Enterprises- says he has suffered poor business over the recent years as tenants leave the area in droves due to insecurity. He says the problem has been compounded by local politicians who bail out suspects once they are arrested by police.
Many aspiring candidates for various seats in Mombasa are promising to tackle insecurity as one of the key priority areas. Majority of them want the security docket devolved to the county government.
However, with no solution in sight, the town will continue to retain the dubious distinction of having the highest number of mad men. For the potency of this curse Albadiri, seems to be unmatched.