A 30 kilometers journey from Kilifi town leads us to Chasimba in Chonyi, one of the six Sub-Counties haboured within the oceanic County of Kilifi. It is about midday and the sun is warming up to usher us into a rather cool and conversational afternoon.
Over the roads, the greenery sight of maize plantations and the swaying palm trees that invokes the serendipity of freshness and harmony welcomes us to a village that has long reconciled with a past filled with crime.
Incidences of GBV
It is here that wails of children and women enveloped the villages over the years and as Merceline Akinyi puts it; “not a day, not a week went by without the wails of children robbed off their innocence being heard in the nearby thickets.”
As a well known anti-GBV crusader in her village, Akinyi recounts the many nights women spent over at her home as they escaped from violent spouses. She tells the tale of the many cases of gender based violence (GBV) perpetrated by bodaboda riders yet the area lacked a fully functional police post to lock up perpetrators or safe shelters for survivors.
Today, hope is brought alive as the community gears to the opening of a newly established Chasimba police station; a first of the first since time immemorial. This has brought with itself a sense of safety and security among communities in the surrounding areas.
“The nearest police station we have ever had is located in Kilifi town; 25kms away. We had to travel miles away to report crime,” she says, adding “follow-up of cases becomes challenging with a transportation cost of Sh800 each day and most cases ends up being thrown out of court.”
It is a tale that Inspector Paul Achebi based Bando Salama DCC’s office in Chonyi knows to well. He grins as he narrates to us how Chasimba Police; located three kilometers away from where he sits has eased his work.
“Currently we do not have vehicles to transport suspects to Kijipwa where we have holding cells or to court. Most of the time we use bodabodas and run the risk of suspects escaping,” narrates Inspector Achebi.
Achebi tells us that he has had incidences where he uses his own car to support survivors to follow-up on their cases in court but he is happy that the Chasimba Police station will have all the infrastructure and resources needed to improve police response to criminal activities in the area.
And so what did it take to get the police station?
Mwanajuma Kusa has lived in Chonyi since birth, she has lived through the insecurity and seen it all; how the bodaboda riders would slash to death residents, the cold bloodbaths by organized criminals like the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council (MRC)- calling for a responsive government to the needs of Coastal communities.
And the cases that add more salt to what Mwanajuma terms as the “evil that resides within the community” is the scourge of gender based violence that has left many homes broken, children left without mothers and fathers and many teenage girls defiled and impregnated by people well known to them: brothers, uncles, fathers and neighbours.
“We have a culture of ‘disco matanga’ that exposes girls to teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite the government outlawing such, the practice still persists in the community,” she says
Mwanajuma’s concern was to have a safer community for the many women and girls whose interest resides in her heart. As a member of Sauti Ya Wanawake, Chonyi Chapter, she gathered all the women to discus the issue of a police post being established a stone throw away from the villages.
“To gunner support, we first conversed with community members including the Kaya Elders. Together we agreed that we would approach the area Member of Parliament (MP),” recalls Mwanajuma.
She pauses and shifts to how it was challenging for them to stand before the Kaya Elders, knowing what the “traditions postulates”- voices of women are never taken into account. She says they stood firm and explained why it was time that the community got a fully-fledged police station. They needed to be heard not as “women” but as a community. It was a sigh of relief; their voices were heard and now they had a unity of purpose.
In the turns and sometimes postponement of meetings among the community and authorities, patience carried them through. “We knew even if it took years and ages, our call will be heeded,” she says.
In 2015, the MP would finally call for a meeting that included all the structures in the communities including the grassroots women leaders who have been at the forefront in the campaign. A committee was formed to fast-track the construction of the police post. Fast forward, in 2018 the dream of the community was born alive. Chasimba Police Station stands strong, tall and ready to kick.
Inspector Achebi who has walked the journey with the women groups in the advocacies explains that he is happy with the network that the likes of Mwanajuma and Merceline have created.
He says, such network has helped in raising awareness on critical issues in the community. It is such that has helped changed the perceptions on issues of GBV and accorded women the strong voices to participate in spaces that were regarded as “male only.”
“In all honesty, it takes the community to create safe spaces for their coexistence. As a law enforcer, I have learnt that we should always create an understanding with each and every member of the community. I attend Chief barazas to listen to community concern and address their issues,” explains Achebi who is also the Chonyi Sub-County Commander.