Robbered, Part 3

Robbery is an unfortunate part of life here in Arusha. I’ve written about it before in “Robbered” and in “Robbered: Part 2.” Apparently robbers don’t take a holiday for Christmas. A few weeks ago, our neighbors called a neighborhood meeting to  discuss the “security situation.” Neighborhood meetings are common here, used to discuss and resolve problems amongst neighbors, rather than calling in planning commissioners or police to fix the problem. We didn’t make it to the meeting, nor did any of our neighbors in our six-house compound, Nyumba Sita. But our askari reported back to us a few days later that robbers had killed an askari, or security guard, not far up the road from us! I’d been feeling quite complacent in our neighborhood, because it’s been peaceful and safe since I’ve lived here. Now, I’m not feeling so complacent.

Saitoti, our askari, was friends with the victim and told us that he’d be away from the gate at times, assisting the family of the victim. If I were him, I’d just be scared to do my job, unarmed and watching a gate up the road from a murder. Usually, when he’s away, one of his posse of Maasai friends mans the gate for us. But for about two weeks, Saitoti came and went, with no substitute at the gate. Several times, one of us pulled up to the compound’s outer gate late at night, only to find Saitoti nowhere in evidence and the gate left unlocked so we all could get inside. So, in the wake of a nearby violent robbery, our gate was left open. Any would-be robbers had only to observe us pulling up in our cars and getting out to open the gate from the outside. I was not feeling complacent at all! Safety measures still in effect included the wall with locked gate around my individual house, heavy wooden doors and steel security grates with deadbolts, and steel security grates over the windows.

On Christmas Eve, lots of people go out and celebrate at clubs or bars and make a lot of noise. At midnight Christmas Eve, we heard several gunshots on the road near our compound. Well, at about 12:13, so that’s midnight African Time! Even though we knew it was most likely just party noise, it scared us a bit, under the circumstances. We were starting to think we needed to call the landlord and arrange for a new askari, but were reluctant to do it because we like Saitoti and he’d done a great job before. But three days ago, he came back and has been manning the gate consistently, with about three of his posse assisting.

In my friend Anna’s neighborhood, a group of robbers had been stealing generators and cables from outside houses. The other night, a group of the neighborhood askaris trapped the robbers at around 9:00. Neighbors gathered outside and held the robbers captive all night. They yelled at them and beat them up a bit. They debated loudly whether they should call the police and turn the robbers over or kill the robbers right there. The next morning, the neighbors brought out their children to see the robbers and illustrate to them what happens to you if you become a robber. Then they called the police and turned the robbers over. Anna heard all this from safely inside her house, with her Tanzanian boyfriend translating for her.