No death traps in Jiji Ndogo

Investor's plan to start an Airbnb in the village causes a riot

In Summary

• Fear grips residents after spate of killings in the country in private lodgings


When Sgt Sophie and I get wind of commotion at Dr Selitol’s shop, it can only mean one thing.

“The blasted man must have raised his prices again?” Sophia says.

“But what can we do about it?” I lament. “It’s a free country. If you don’t like his prices, buy elsewhere.”

She tosses me a stern look. “This is Jiji Ndogo. There is no elsewhere.”

We get to our resident Indian’s shop and find a crowd gathered. It takes a moment to calm them down enough to enquire what the hullabaloo is all about.

“Huyu mzae anataka kuleta kifo Jiji Ndogo,” says one woman, wielding a mwiko as if she belongs to some kitchen fighter brigade.

“Who are you talking about?” Sophia asks.

“And what do you mean he wants to bring death?” I ask.

“Huyu Selitol anataka kufungua abinabi hapa Jiji Ndogo.”

“What’s abinabi?” I say.

“What my confused fellow denizen is trying to say,” interjects Mwenda, our village madman and probably the most eloquent man in Jiji Ndogo, “is that Mr Selitol here has decided to open a house of ill repute in our small village. And as it is with the cosmos, nothing travels faster than light towards unmitigated disaster. We call it, a supernova.”

And as it often happens, he goes on a tangent no one can follow.

“Mwenda,” I say, “you are rambling now.” I turn to the crowd again. “Anyone care to explain what’s going on?”

Pastor Kongo of Our Lord The Saviour Church steps up. “Praise be to our Lord. I wish to speak not just as a man of the cloth but a single parent of a teenage girl only now learning the ways of the world. As it says in the book of—”

“Hii si church, mzae,” shouts Kevo, our resident troublemaker. “I can’t believe a man of God is against development. An Airbnb is a good idea for this village.”

“Is that what this is about?” Sophia asks. “What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong with that?” blazes Pastor Kongo. “They are dens of iniquity.”

“They are better places to spend a night than lodgings,” counters Kevo. “What’s next – we can’t have a hotel because it will ruin the already bad cooking at home?”

“Uhm, excuse me.” Mwenda coughs. “Just a quick correction. Airbnbs are lodgings, too. That’s all. You can go on.”

I find Dr Selitol cowered inside his shop. “What’s going on, Selitol?”

“Mimi letea hawa watu maendeleo, hawa watu iko taka maliza mimi.”

“It’s all this stuff that’s been happening around the country,” Sophia says as she joins us. “But should we blame houses for crime?”

“Hata mimi iko kubali,” adds Dr Selitol. “Kama mtu nataka fanya kitu, tafanya mahala popote.”

“We have to tell the people something,” I suggest.

“Okay.” Sophia marches to the front of the shop and stands on a crate. “Denizens of Jiji Ndogo. I know how you feel about this issue, but the state has no mandate on matters of private enterprise. You should all return to your—”

“Sasa huyu anasema nini?” shouts a voice in the crowd.

“Please,” I call, raising my hands. “What my partner intends to say is, safety is an individual responsibility. You should get to know someone before committing to spend private time together. And while some tragedies cannot be helped, enough precautions go a long way in preventing others.”

As it turns out, even I don’t connect too well with my fellow Jiji Ndogo denizens, who are determined to get their way.

Sophia and I end up being corralled back into the police post.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star