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Lateness saved my life, says former gangster

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Were it not for a new gang member occupying his seat and filling the car, John Elos would be among those the police shot dead.

Elos and six other gang members had planned a robbery at Munyeki. His accomplices were to pick him from his house, but by the time they arrived, he was not where they had agreed to meet. And so they left him

since any delay would mean missing the target. The gang, enraged, picked up a new gang member.

Dejected, he returned to his house to rest and wait for the news of his gang’s success.

It was not until 6am the following morning, a Tuesday in 1995, that Elos turned on the radio and heard the news that a gang had been killed in a shootout with police in Nakuru.

Mission aborted

“Immediately I heard that, I was sure those were my gang members,” he said.

The news sent chills down his spine, even as he thought of just how lucky he had been, he adds.

The gang was armed and the robbery mission well planned, but Elos suspects the mission aborted because of a “snitch”.

Following the news, Elos avoided all contacts and chose to remain indoors, just in case he was on the police’s radar. He eventually confirmed that the executed were his gang members.

Elos and his accomplices operated from Gilgil, but carried out robberies in other areas of the Rift Valley such as Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kericho.

Although this was a close shave, it was not the first time he was cheating death.

In an earlier incidence, the gang had attempted to rob an Eldoret businessman of Sh4.3 million. The police foiled the robbery and two of his colleagues sustained bullet wounds in the chest and head.

Elos’ entry into the world of crime was through a friend with whom he had been working at a construction site in Nakuru’s Pipeline Estate.

“All the gang members worked as casual labourers during the day. I was curious to know why most of them looked well off and lived in nice houses while the rest of us did manual, [poorly paid] jobs,” he said.

Worked with insiders

The manual jobs were to fool people that they acquired their money in a clean way.

The gang targeted business people, prominent politicians and others who were moneyed, and often worked with insiders in the big companies.

Born in Lodwar, Turkana County, Elos knew how to operate a gun.

“I was young, about 25 years old, but old enough to pick a gun and shoot,” he said.

The gang’s greatest fear was encountering the police, but they were sometimes in cahoots with the law enforcers.

He even admits that most guns used by the gang then were hired from the police.

“This meant that we also got protection from them,” he said.

Tortured badly

In 1996, Elos was arrested alongside 30 others and charged after robbing a police officer of his official AK47 rifle. Together with the other suspects, he was tortured badly.

“A group of us were taken to lake Nakuru and put inside a car boot. The police then lobbed a tear-gas canister at us. They then beat us, while naked, using jembe (hoe) handles,” he said.

Elos was found guilty of robbery with violence in 1997 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He appealed the sentence.

He started his sentence at Nakuru GK Prison before being transferred to Naivasha Maximum and later to Kamiti Maximum Prison.

While in prison, Elos decided to change his ways and enrolled for a diploma in theology, eventually becoming a qualified pastor.

He would often preach to fellow inmates at Naivasha prison.
In 2004, his appeal went through and his sentence was reduced by six

years.

“I was released from prison after serving nine years. When I went home, people were elated and shocked because — they all thought I was dead since I had not been in touch with them for a long time,” he says, Rumour had spread that he was involved in an accident, he adds.

He then started doing small businesses and made enough money to move to Nakuru.

Today, he operates a taxi business. He is also a pastor at Victory World Outreach in Langalanga, where he encourages people to acquire wealth through hard work.

“There is no shortcut to acquiring wealth and living large. People should be responsible and earn clean money from clean work. I’m happy I reformed. Youths should understand that crime does pay but pains,” he says.

By Nation


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Business

VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students

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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū


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Lifestyle

‘Kikambala hotel bombing in 2002 changed our lives’

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The scars on Mercy Neema Mwagambo’s body are a stark reminder of what happened at Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala 18 years ago.

On November 28, 2002, a two-pronged terrorist attack hit an Israeli-owned hotel but missed a plane belonging to Arkia Airlines.

A vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the hotel on the Kilifi-Mombasa highway and blew up, killing 17 people and injuring 80 others.

Every year today, Neema and 13 victims of the attack and their families converge at the deserted hotel to pray for the souls of their departed relatives.

However, today could be the last annual ritual as the owner has put the hotel for sale.

Annual ritual

For Neema and other victims, it’s not clear if the prospective buyer would allow them to continue with this annual ritual.

It is an attack that left villages of Musumarini in Kilifi County destitute, negatively affected Israelis’ investments at the Coast and damaged the tourism sector.

“I am trying to sell this property even at a throwaway price,” said Yehuda Sulami, an Israeli, on phone from Tel Aviv, although he did not reveal the price.

Sulami claims that after the attack, there were efforts to push him out of business.

The former special forces officer said he had no money to compensate victims of the attack.

“I’ve faced an avalanche of litigation on compensation. There was no insurance cover on terrorism,” said Sulami.

It is the first time has spoken publicly on the matter.

He said while he sympathised with those who lost their loved ones or suffered injuries, he lost his lifetime investment and close friends and “there was no one to comfort me.”

Among the 17 who perished were 14 Kenyans and three Israelis. The deserted hotel is arguably the only remaining mark of Israel investment in Coast.

Prior to the attack, over 100,000 tourists from Israel had made Mombasa and Kenyan Coast their second home away from home.

“Arkia Airline used to bring in between 250-270 guests per flight. It had operated Mombasa route for close to seven years before the attempted missile attack,” said Sulami.

After the attack, the airline stopped flying the route and Israel investments at the Coast started dwindling.

Sulami claimed that what followed was a number of litigation and attempts to force them to close down the hotel.

“We became the target yet the Kenyan government had promised to assist the affected persons,” said Sulami, without providing any evidence of the alleged persecution.

The victims of the attack narrated to the Saturday Standard on how they were neglected by the Government and the owner of the hotel.

For instance, Neema cannot walk as her legs were seriously injured. She was working at the front office at the hotel.

On that fateful day, she was helping a guest check in as her colleagues were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.

“Had I remained inside the hotel at my work station, may be I would not have been injured this way,” said Neema.

November is a peak season for the tourism sector in Coast. On that day, as a group of 230 guests were leaving the hotel, another 250 tourists were checking in. All the guests were Israelis.

“I reported early for duty on that fateful day and was looking forward to a rather busy day since we had huge check in and check out for guests,” she said in an interview.

At the gate, a troupe of Girima dancers were doing their jig to bid goodbye to outgoing guests and welcome the incoming ones.

Most of the incoming tourists had already been ushered in to the waiting lounge at the reception but a small group had joined the traditional dancers.

“What followed was a huge bang followed by fire all over the Makuti-thatched hotel,” Neema said, adding that she found herself on the ground.

Neema could not walk so she crawled to the swimming pool. She had suffered serious burns allover her body and decided to jump into the swimming pool to cool herself.

“I was taken to hospital in Mombasa and later airlifted by a military aircraft to Israel for specialised treatment at Jerusalem Hospital. I spent four weeks receiving treatment for my broken legs and burnt face and back,” she said.

The Kikambala bombing incident also robbed the family of Mufidha Mohamed of its breadwinner, Wildred Oyaro Owuor, who used to operate a taxi business at the hotel.

“My husband suffered a ruptured stomach. He died 21 days after he was admitted at Pandya Hospital,” Mufidha says. She was breastfeeding Zaki, their last born now 18 years, when the attack happened.

She said with the death of her husband, she was left as the sole breadwinner to fend for her five children.

“It has not been easy for us all. I have tried to venture into business with very little success,” she said.

Today Mufidha, her children and a few other survivors will converge at the blast site to hold prayers and commemorate those who died.

“Today we shall go to the hotel which has now closed down to hold prayers. It is a ritual I’ll do until I meet him in the next life,” says Mufidha.

Dr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, says the events of the fateful day have had a long impact on Kenyan tourism.

Travel advisories

Dr Ikwaye says it is after the Kikambala bombing that key foreign tourists source markets started issuing travel advisories against Mombasa and the Coast region.

“This was the start of a very bad beginning for Kenyan tourism,” Ikwaye said.

He explained the Kikambala bombing marked the first time the industry experienced serious external shocks and has never fully recovered.

“Neighbouring nations too and the world experienced our pain years after we had suffered and today terrorism has been recognised as a threat not just synonmous with Kenya, but the world over,” he said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said it is unfortunate that no compensation was made to those who suffered the brunt of the terror attack.

“Both the national and county governments should be compelled to assist surviving families. This will not take away completely the suffering they have endured but will offer some sort of comfort to those affected,” said Justice (rtd) Madzayo.

by Standardmedia.co.ke


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Entertainment

‘We had invested…’ Churchill reveals how the pandemic has hit him

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Comedian Churchill says just like any other business, coronavirus has hit him too.

Churchill, real name Daniel Ndambuki has been doing ‘The Journey Series’ on his TV show which is originally a stand-up comedy show that attracts thousands of viewers.

Speaking to Mpasho, Churchill revealed;

“We had invested quite some amount in the production of the show. And now, you can’t use that gear, you have to put all that aside. You cannot set up something so big for like 200 people, that is loss-making. It almost takes us to where we began. We remain positive though”

Adding;

“I am happy with all that is happening from all other comedians.”

Churchill said this after the launch of TuKo App, which he is the brand ambassador.

Churchill Photo By Charlene Malwa

by Mpasho.co.ke


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