By County Press Reporter
It is 9.30 am in the morning and the scene is Ocean Bar at Maili Tisa along the Kajiado Namanga highway, where Vero the chatty bar attendant is busy serving customers beer, some sitting on sofa sets watching TV.
At the other end of the bar, a middle- aged woman, sleeping on a chair with her head resting on the table and saliva drooling from her mouth, has two bottles of Guinness beer one empty and the other half full sitting in front of her face.
“Amekesha na pombe lakini atakuwasahau watu, hiyo ni kawaida (she has drunk the whole nigh but that is normal),” says Vero.
A noisy drunkard addressed as John by patrons, repeatedly shouts at Vero asking her to kopesha (loan) him half bottle of Chrome Vodka but his appeals are ignored before he walks towards me asking for a drink.
A few minutes later Vero walks to the rear side of the bar and takes a few minutes before coming back, curious, I walk there, where I encounter about 10 inebriated men and women drinking beer and chewing miraa.
Back to my seat, I quickly drain my drink and request John to show me around because I can only afford to buy him illicit beer in the back streets if he doesn’t mind, an offer he quickly accepts.
“Where are you taking him? Don’t give him another woman out there, make sure he comes back here,” a jovial looking Vero shouts at John as we exit Ocean Bar for the narrow dusty back streets of Maili Tisa.
But before we get far, John notices that Im carrying a note book, making him uneasy: “Leave that book behind” he tells me, adding that there are people monitoring us and so I oblige and ask a vegetable vendor to keep it for me at her stand.
He leads me to a house disguised as a tea kiosk but where people are busy consuming changaa, a potent local brew going for Sh50 per glass that I quickly order for him.
Satisfied with what I saw, I asked the reluctant looking John that we move back to the bar but he insists that I buy one more glass to which I oblige and leave him to enjoy it in a more relaxed mood with his friends.
After picking my notebook from the mama mboga, I went around interviewing people on the streets of Maili Tisa where I learned that until last year crime levels and prostitution were very high.
“There was a lot of money here because group ranches were sub dividing and selling land but that has declined after the County government ordered that any land sales must be approved by the Land Control Board,” said a man repairing bodaboda motorbikes, who declined to give his name.
He said a large number of prostitutes also flocked to the small town from Nairobi and Tanzania because they knew that Maasai men who sold land were walking around with large amounts of money.
George Kepha a guest attendant in Namanga also recounted a hilarious story of a Maasai man from Maili Tisa who booked a room last year and spend a night with a woman from Nairobi at Bongo Salama Guest House, only to be found in the morning wailing with his ears chained on the bed.
“We later learned that the woman paid Sh10,000 to hire a Matatu which took her to Nairobi after stealing Sh300,000 from the old man whose culturally stretched earlobes were chained to the bed,” said Kepha.
A young womanfrom Meru who sells Muguka at her Mwari Base Hotel, a small kiosk next to the NAEKANA Shuttle Matatu offices also recounted how money used to flow from sand harvesting sales at the river near the town.
Sand harvesting still takes place at the river but lorries which used to go there from Nairobi and other areas stopped and now only those returning empty after delivering cargo in Tanzania pass by to collect sand on their way back to Nairobi.
Charcoal burning was also banned by the County administration and the Chief’s office although it still goes on clandestinely on a very small scale.
Area Chief Lois Robert says Maili Tisa town has a population of 3700 people counted during the just concluded census but more people come there from the villages especially on market days.
“It is true that crime here was high because of money from land sale by the Mailua and Oldonyoro group ranches but the value has really gone high with an acre along the highway selling at between Sh 1 and 2 million,” said Chief Lois.
He clarified that the County government did not ban the sale of land but only set new rules that require group ranches to be given a permit by the Land Control Board before they can engage in the process of subdividing and disposing land.
He says although Maili Tisa was known as the epicenter of crime in the past, crooks and criminals were either arrested or fled the area when they learned that they were being pursued.