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June: Amid hail of bullets, the thought of “who would tell my children I had died freaked me out”



On top of June Chepkemei’s mind was worry over who would look after her young children in case she died. She started wondering who would tell them she was dead, and how life would be for them without a mother…

It’s 4:30pm on Tuesday. As June Chepkemei squeezed herself in the space between the mirror and the floor in the bathroom of room 417 on the fourth floor of The Dusit Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, she was coming to terms with the real possibility of death.

This was a little over one and a half hours into the Tuesday terrorist attack that would last for more than 16 hours. She could hear gunfire outside, which sounded like it was going on forever, punctuated by occasional screams. On the top most rank of her mind was worry over who would look after her young children in case she died.

“I wrote to a close friend who I had contacted via text message and told her my final wishes. I was making peace with the fact that I could die that afternoon,” she recalls.

As she made her peace, there were conversing noises, and then a knock on the door of the room where she was hiding with five of her colleagues. If she had followed her first instinct, she would have rushed to the door. She was tired of hiding and the discomfort in her stomach caused by the anxiety was growing.

“But a few minutes earlier, my friend had sent me a text not to open the door to anyone. She told me that the rescue team would break down the door when they got to us,” she says.

So, in hushed tones, they made the decision to stay put until someone broke down the door, a decision that most probably saved their lives.


Interestingly, June was not supposed to be at the Dusit D2 complex on that day. She has been on her annual leave but when her employer, The Konza Technopolis Development Authority, planned a strategy workshop to kick off the year, she decided to cut short her leave to attend the weeklong planning event in a meeting room on the first floor of the Dusit Hotel building.

Tuesday was the second day of the workshop. The day was going so well that she had to force her team of 13 to break for lunch. After lunch, she even had some time to sit at the balcony of the hotel and read a few pages of John Doerr’s Measure What matters.

June Chepkemei, who survived the January 15, 2019 terror attack at DusitD2, Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY

But 45 minutes into their afternoon session, they heard a loud bang.

“With the many recent suicide incidents, I thought someone had jumped off a higher floor. But the commotion outside was too much and then the gun shots began renting the air, so I began packing up my laptop,” she says recalling how her three-and-a-half-hour ordeal began.

Being a team leader, she felt a responsibility to her colleagues and so she left to look for a safe exit. The company she worked for when the terror attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall happened six years ago took them through some crisis training. She knew it was not wise to rush out through the main doors lest she meets the attackers face to face. She also knew not to run to the top floors lest she gets cornered up there. So she looked for the fire exit which she and five of her colleagues used to make it to the ground floor.

“Here, the gunshots were too many and too close so we made a quick decision to rush back upstairs and hide in the room that one of the consultants at our workshop was staying in at the hotel.”

Each of them found a place to hide, some in the bathroom, some behind the curtains and others on the bed under the guise of the pillows.


Being a former journalist and now a communications professional, June has always been on the other side of things, being the one telling the story. Suddenly, things were happening to her. She shares that this was not a good place to be.

She didn’t want to contact her family directly and so from her hiding space in the bathroom, she contacted her boss, and a trusted friend. Then she shared her plight in a WhatsApp group she is in with other media professionals.

“I tried to be strong at first. I was still feeling that sense of responsibility for my colleagues. But then someone from the media group shared that Al Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the attack. This was when I broke down. The images and memories from The West Gate attack were still too fresh. This was when I got to the point of being ready to die,” she recalls.

Vehicles go up in flames at the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi on January 15, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO.

The hardest part for her through the whole ordeal was not the gunshots or the blasts outside. It was when her friend went to her house to check on her children.

“My friend texted me to tell me that my children were home safe doing their homework and waiting for me. This was when I began thinking about what would happen if I died. Who would tell them I was dead? Would they understand what that meant? Were they old enough to understand? How would life be for them without a mother? The anxiety was too much.”

Finally, a few minutes to 6pm after three hours, which felt like three days, a team of more than 10 officers from the Recce squad broke down the door of room 417 and walked June and her colleagues out to safety.

“We were walked towards the bar, where we were held for about

Vehicles go up in flames at the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi on January 15, 2019.

15 minutes. Gunshots were still ringing all around us. The scenes were still fresh … we were then walked to an armoured car in teams of two’s.”

Outside, she was received by a team of journalists and led to an ambulance from where she called her family.

At the time of the interview, June was yet to leave her house and her car was still lying at the Dusit D2 Complex parking lot.

“This incident changed a lot of things for me. I realise that as a country, we have been focusing on the wrong things. We shouldn’t be worrying about the politicians, we should be worrying about who the police commandants is. These terrorists do not care about our tribes or political affiliations,” she says.

Will she go back to Dusit when it re-opens? I want to know. She laughs nervously. ‘Yes. It will be the safest hotel in Kenya.”



June Chepkemei, who survived the January 15, 2019 terror attack at DusitD2, Nairobi.



What can you do?

According to Winnie Kitetu, a clinical psychologist with Aga Khan Hospital Mombasa, traumatic events such as this one will result in a myriad of emotions ranging from fear and anxiety, and maybe even anger and confusion. Victims will struggle with nightmares and flash backs where they see their dying friends or hear the blasts all over again. She calls it the Acute Stress Disorder.

The priority within the first 24 hours of the event is psychological first aid, which entails listening and being physically present for the victim. The good news is that you need not be a medical professional to be able to offer this.

“Listen to this person actively. Listen but be careful not to repeat what happened so as not to re-traumatise them.”

She reckons that especially when there are no physical injuries, it is easy for someone to ignore the psychological support.

“Even if you feel fine, get a mental assessment anyway,” she advises.

When this isn’t checked, it might develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whose effects are even deeper running.

The final and just as important step of support is giving hope. Tell them that all is not lost.

What can one expect thereafter? In an attempt to move on, some victims will feel a need to take control of their lives. For some, it might mean acquiring a weapon. Some will lean heavily on church.


Does it last?

The helplessness of being caught up in a gunfight is likely to leave someone on the edge. It’s natural to have that fear of getting caught up in all of that again.

How long does this last? While there are no hard statistics with regard to this recovery especially where there is terrorism, history in Kenya suggests that there is hope. While acts of terror are shattering, their effects do wear off.

Case in point, the 2013 attack on West Gate Mall where 67 lives were lost. The mall, which had been badly damaged, was refurbished and re-opened in 2015. When it was re-opened, many Kenyans lived and still do live in fear of such an attack but in defiance and solidarity, they streamed there to eat and shop.


What happens to the mind?

A 2015 French study titled The Great Fear of Terrorism acknowledges that acts of violence can be damaging to the mind. But almost always, individuals move on from it.

“People basically accept that there is a possibility and try and move on with their lives because there is no other way to live,” the study authors write.

The study, however, highlights the fact that time is not the only thing a victim of such a tragedy will need.

While some people take weeks to recover, others will take years. What causes this difference is the proximity to the attack and the kind of support and intervention they get thereafter.



Just be there physically.

Actively listen to them.

Stop texting and tweeting.

Listen to them.

Don’t force them to recount the events of the attack.

Let them share what they are ready to share.

Don’t assume that they are fine.

Get them a mental assessment.

Let them be free to feel the things they need to feel. There is no right way to feel or right way to behave after surviving a terror attack.



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I bought a car from an online bazaar, but it ended in tears



Buyer beware! The sleek car that you saw on that online bazaar may not be on sale – but a ruse to rip you off.

Three buyers fell for this trap, hoodwinked by a smooth-talking ‘salesman’ who promised to help them upgrade their cars, in a saga that ended in tears.

And the victims had thought that because a lawyer was involved in the transaction, this protected their interests as well. However, the manner in which they lost their cash raises questions about his role.

The address was an office block in the city centre, where the sale agreements would be drafted, buyers would part with their cash and the seller would thereafter vanish into thin air without delivering the vehicle.

Since 2018, when one of the cases was reported, the victim is yet to recover his money, with the lawyer claiming he did not know the seller.

This year, however, two more people have fallen prey to the scam and it’s unclear how many more have been conned.

Wanted to upgrade his car

Earlier this year, Mr Kelvin Ngugi, 23, wanted to upgrade his KBX Toyota Sienta and, while scrolling through the internet one evening, he came across a dealer who identified himself as Mr Ronald Bundi on, the online classifieds website that acquired OLX.

Mr Bundi was willing to trade in Mr Ngugi’s old vehicle and Mr Ngugi, impressed at the convenience of that possibility, began making arrangements for that to happen.

However, before the deal could be closed, Mr Bundi informed him that the trade-in option was no longer viable.

He was left with the sole option of selling his car to buy the one he wanted, a white Toyota Sienta, registration KCQ.

Mr Ngugi hunted for a buyer, sold it and reached out to Mr Bundi for the car he wanted. He was informed the car was still available at a showroom along Kiambu road at Sh600,000.

“The plan was that I pay a Sh500,000 deposit and remit the balance in instalments of Sh25,000,” recalled Ngugi.

Mr Kelvin Ngugi.

On February 19, when they were to close the deal, Mr Bundi advised Mr Ngugi to meet him at lawyer Wilberforce Mariaria Nyaboga’s office at Uniafric House, along Koinange Street, for the payment and signing of a sale agreement.

“The lawyer finished drafting the agreement at around 3:45pm and asked me to go withdraw the deposit since the banks were about to close and pay in cash. He advised that the payment be done at his office so that in case of anything, he’d be held liable,” Mr Ngugi recounted.

Mr Ngugi says he did as advised, returned with the money and gave it to the lawyer, who, alongside the seller, started counting it.

When they confirmed the amount, the seller offered to go get the car with Mr Ngugi’s father from a garage in Hurlingham.

Mr Bundi explained the car had been taken to Hurlingham to be fitted with an alarm system to ease its tracking in the event Mr Ngugi failed to remit the balance.

Unbeknown to Mr Ngugi, this was the seller’s trick to get away with his money.

The two stepped out to hop onto motorbike taxis to speed them to the garage, but Mr Bundi sped past Mr Ngugi’s father and disappeared.

“Later Dad called to inform me that they had lost him. We tried reaching Bundi on the phone in vain.  That is how I realised I had been conned,” he said.

Mr Ngugi says he recorded a statement with a Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officer at Central Police Station but that is yet to bear any fruit.

He says the police have been unable to track down both Mr Bundi and the lawyer, even on the occasions the latter is spotted at his office.
On Thursday, the lawyer denied knowing Ngugi and ever having drafted the agreement.

Another victim

After giving up hope of ever recovering the Sh900,000 she paid for a Toyota RAV4, Ms Florence Awour (36) decided to share her predicament on a Facebook’s parenting group to expose Mr Bundi, who had conned her too.

Ms Awuor had spotted the car at and involved her brother in making the purchase. She paid Sh1.1 million through the lawyer’s Equity Bank account but never got the car.

Ms Florence Awour.

Nation Media Group

Her brother had been assured the car was at a yard along Kiambu road. Her brother and a mechanic had checked out and test-driven the car twice before she paid for it.

Mr Bundi asked to meet her brother at the same lawyer’s office, where the sale agreement was signed but when they went for the car at Tito Motors along Kiambu road, her brother was told by the attendants that Mr Bundi wasn’t known to them.

She conducted a search on the car’s registration and realised her brother had also been given a fake logbook.

“I alerted the car’s owner, who in turn filed a report with a DCI officer at Central Police Station under OB number 67/26/02/2020.”

After publicising her tribulations, she said the lawyer refunded Sh200,000 and alleged the balance had been wired to the seller.

Yesterday, the lawyer acknowledged he refunded the money but after realising that the deal had gone sour. He admitted to having recorded a statement at Central police station where the matter has been pending under investigation for months.

“I was acting on behalf of the two because they came to me asking for an agreement to seal their deal. I am therefore not to blame. I am also aware that the police have been hunting the seller who I only know as Robert, who is unknown to me,” he said.

The sale agreement however was with Alice Nancy Momanyi.

Seller disappeared into thin air

Henry Munene Muchiri (35) also gave up after a long wait for justice. He said police were unable to help him recover Sh600,000 paid for a Toyota Sienta bought via OLX but was never delivered to him in 2018.

“After expressing my interest, I was taken to a yard on Ngong Road where I saw the vehicle, inspected it and agreed to make a purchase.”

A Toyota Sienta 2010 model.

File | Nation Media Group

But before the car was released, Mr Munene was asked to accompany the seller to his lawyer’s office in town to sign a sale agreement.

“At some point everything was fine, the car’s logbook and search hinted at no foul play until I was asked to make the payment. Apparently they did not have a bank account so I was requested to pay in cash and I brought the money to the lawyer’s office.”

At some point the seller said he needed to rush downstairs to pick up a laptop for use in the transaction but he never came back.

“The lawyer claimed he didn’t know the seller in person and I reported the matter at Central Police Station under OB number 146/10/7/18 but the investigating officer kept asking for a facilitation fee to speed up investigations. I later gave up and returned to Kirinyaga,” he said.

On Monday, DCI detectives at Central Police Station said the lawyer had already recorded a statement.

Efforts to contact Mr Bundi were futile. His contacts as received from the victims were out of service and others were not being picked.

Cash withdrawn immediately

However, an attempt to send Sh5 to one of Mr Bundi’s contact to get his Mpesa-registered name was successful. The amount was, however, withdrawn from his end as soon as it was received. A text message the Nation sent to this number thereafter requesting his response to the claims by the victims wasn’t responded to.

After placing a call and sending a text message to the lawyer on Tuesday, October 20, requesting his response to the claims by the victims, he called back but declined an interview on phone.

Mr Mariaria told this writer to meet him on Wednesday, October 21, in his office. The meeting was then pushed to Thursday when the lawyer denied claims of acting in collusion with Mr Bundi.

He explained that although he had drafted two agreements in the past for transactions in which the buyers never got the vehicles, he has never been involved in any deal with Mr Bundi.

Mr Mariaria added he could not recall parties to the transactions because he offers legal services to many people.

“People come to me after agreeing to sell and buy cars from each other and all I do is sign the agreement and witness the transaction,” added the lawyer.

Denies culpability

Asked whether he was concerned about his office being used to swindle Kenyans money, he responded he cannot stop people from flocking to his office in search of legal services.

“The only mistake I committed was receiving Florence’s money in my account. Otherwise, there are too many criminals in town and cars are being sold every day. The only thing I can do is to be careful next time,” the lawyer said.

Jiji, a subsidiary of Digital Spring Ventures, acquired OLX from five countries in its efforts to become the leading classified marketplace in the world by traffic.

The transactions made through the platform are virtual, which exposes it to abuse but to cushion its clients from theft, the website advises buyers to only make payments for items bought after successful delivery.

“Avoid anything that appears too good to be true, such as unrealistically low prices and promises of quick money,” further reads the disclaimer.


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Court postpones case against Sonko’s impeachment




The Labour Court has suspended the temporary issued over half a year ago to have Nairobi’s governor Mike Sonko impeached.

On Friday, justice made the decision after disbanding an initial report filed former Nairobi county assembly speaker Beatrice Elachi.

Elachi sought to have Mike Sonko relieved of his duties at Nairobi’s county boss.

In her argument, Elachi said that there was no employer-employee relationship between the governor and members of the county assembly.

She added that such a relationship didn’t give the governor the mandate to determine any arising dispute.

Elachi further stated that the case breaches the basic principle of law that states all government entities should not encroach on each other since they are separate.

Additionally, the former speaker stated that the governor’s case was against the law as it abused the entire court process.

Justice Ongaya, however, ruled that the governor didn’t have to create an employee-employer relationship with ward representatives.

He added that impeachment is a disciplinary process for removing a person from the office which is a function of human resource.

Therefore, it is within the realms of the Constitution and Statutory provisions.

Additionally, the judge said Sonko’s case was within Constitutional and Statutory jurisdiction that can decline issues pertaining to labour relations and employment.

Also, section 12(2) of the Employment Labour Relations Court Act, 2011 it’s okay for a case to be filed in court against or by any institution under the written law.

Additionally, the Act allows the court to determine disputes against people working as either employers or employees.

On his part, Ongwaya said proceeding with the case didn’t mean he was undermining the comity of the three government arms.

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Uhuru warns boda boda riders against being used by politicians for personal gains




President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday the 23rd of October oversaw the signing of a grand deal between capital markets authority, Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya (BAK) an investment firm and an oil marketer.

The head of state further gave the riders some financial advice on how to scale and become rich.

Uhuru also encouraged the bodaboda riders to work hard so that they can achieve their goals.

“Boda boda industry is a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened, which is why the boda boda investment scheme is a great idea.

“Every individual should take pride in paying the price for what they want. If you do not pay the price, someone will pay to misuse you,” Uhuru said.

President Uhuru further questioned why some Boda Boda riders are poor despite the industry raking a staggering ksh 27 billion monthly.

According to him, the industry earns more than what the Government gives counties yearly.

“Every year, in totality, the boda boda industry makes ksh 357 billion. Boda boda association if together, would make more than what the government gives to the 47 counties.

“If you collect almost ksh1 billion every day, why does every boda boda rider cry of poverty?” Uhuru questioned.

“The boda boda sector supports, directly or indirectly, 5.2 million kenyans which accounts for 10% of the population. This means that one in every ten kenyans makes his livelihood because of the business that you do,” he added

The head of state also cautioned the riders against accepting influence from political forces.

According to him, the riders should unite and work hard to visualize their dreams.

“If the working life of a boda boda is ten years after which he joins another sector, then this scheme offers a safe landing for him outside the said industry. My government is in full support of this association.

“My advice is to tell you to leverage your numbers.. look at things not in an individual aspect, but in a collective point of view. At times you’ll have to make unpopular decisions hence the reason why I came with a lean team. But always think of yourselves first and be careful not to be swindled based on political grounds.”

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