She walks in with a shy smile and a beautiful baby boy on her hip. She’s recovering from a cocaine addiction and before her baby was born she was a drug trafficker. At some point in her life she almost joined the dreaded Al-Shabaab militia. She seems older than her years, but alas, she’s only 20 years old.
Her story seems surreal for someone so young. She recounts to me the trajectory her life has taken to arrive at this point. Just after she cleared high school, she was approached by a friend who asked her to deliver a bag to a man in Ngong. With the naïveté of youth, she didn’t stop to question what was in the bag. When she arrived at the house, the first thing she noticed were the huge men in suits standing around the house. The place looked like one of those Narcos drug dens, packets of drugs everywhere, guns hidden in plain sight and huge amounts of testosterone flowing in the room. She soon learned that this was not the final destination. The huge men emptied the bag and filled it up again with more cargo to deliver, this time to town, and there began her life as a trafficker. The friend who had given her the bag was also part of the group. On that first trip, she didn’t ask for money because she had not known what she was carrying. When she realised it was drugs they were transporting, she asked for money because the risk was too high. I stop the story to ask why she didn’t run at this point and she said “the money was too good.” The second bag got them paid 70k. For kids straight out of high school this was a lot of money, even split halfway. They were hesitant at first, but quick money has a way of changing your mind quite quickly. They threw themselves into it and the money poured in hard and fast.
She was an impressionable girl, brought up in a very religious family. Shielded from life in a way that only children of religious families can be, she found herself in a new world, a world made that much more exciting because of money. She started attending all the cool parties and living it up. She began to supply cocaine to these parties and the money kept rolling in. Somewhere along the way she started snorting the cocaine and before she could blink she was addicted to the high. Add to this some alcohol and weed, and you have the makings of a hard addiction right there. All this time her family was completely unaware of what she was doing. She would leave the house early in the morning and would be back home before the folks checked in. Life was good and she couldn’t complain. She was a straight-A student, still is, and her grades didn’t suffer one bit. In fact in her own words, she said the coke cleared her brain and helped her think.
At the time she was studying programming at a college in town. She was quite a brilliant programmer and so was her friend. (I think it’s time we gave him a name, we’ll call him Andrew.) Let’s also call the girl, Tina. So Tina and Andrew were coding and trafficking, oblivious to the danger they were putting themselves into. Unbeknownst to them, the police had picked up on them and were silently following them. She would later learn that they had been on their trail for months, following them between Ngong and town, learning all their tricks and planning their next moves. And like every good Narcos story, the police were more interested in the big dealers, and Tina and Andrew were the path that would lead them there.
Meanwhile, her parents had started to suspect something. Tina was always locked up in her room. She left early in the morning and got back in the evening even on days when she had no classes. Due to her parent’s strict influence, she had to be decently dressed; long skirts and head scarves – no trousers allowed. That is still the rule in her parent’s house to this day. Like any other teenager, she would leave the house all covered up and would change into funkier clothes once she got to school or the pick-up point. Unfortunately for her, one random afternoon a woman from her church spotted her in town dressed in a short skirt and immediately called her father. He called her, pretending to find out where she was and whether he could pick her up from school. Sensing a trap she said no and rushed home only to find him waiting for her. The interrogation was ruthless and her parents turned her room inside out trying to find out what else she was hiding. They found booze, weed, coke and another cellphone which she used for the business all hidden in different parts of her room. Her parents were furious – in fact furious is a serious understatement. She was cornered and she couldn’t lie through it, so she decided to tell the truth about the whole thing.
When her father found out he was livid; he promptly kicked her out without an argument. She was 19 and homeless with nowhere to turn. Luckily she still had some of the money saved up from the business and went to live with a friend who was kind enough to host her. Her friend knew her story and tried to help her reform and Tina was willing to try. As part of the reform process, she invited Tina to church and that’s where she learned of a youth camp happening in Marsabit. She signed up and excitedly called Andrew to tell him about it. He was happy for her and seemed genuinely interested in her trip. She gave him all the details about the trip, the stops they would make and all the places they would visit. Little did she know her itinerary was valuable information. For while she had been trying to reform her life, Andrew had been getting deeper and deeper into the crime world. Owing to their brilliance at programming, word reached one of the Al-shabaab recruiters (even she couldn’t answer how) about the dynamic duo and they promptly reached out to Andrew to try to recruit them both. Since Andrew knew she wouldn’t agree to joining the group, he organized for her to be kidnapped in Isiolo. The bus she was traveling on was to be hijacked in Isiolo and she was meant to have been taken at that time. When Andrew later told her the story, she remembered a white pro box trying to circle their bus but it was unable to make their bus stop. She shudders at the thought of what might have happened had they actually managed to kidnap her. Working with a terrorist organisation is something even she wouldn’t touch.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch her parents had no idea where she was. Even after kicking her out, they still tried to keep track of her. Her father went with some CIDs to her college to find out where she went but none of her friends said a thing. The cops started spying on Andrew, following him around and going to the extent of tapping his phone. Unfortunately for her, intelligence had been tailing her for a while due to the drug trafficking. They alerted the CIDs of her whereabouts and they promptly alerted her parents. That’s how she turned around one evening and found her mother standing in the middle of the kitchen at the camp.
She was dragged back home and put on the path to reform. She was too old for juvenile detention and too young for a regular jail so her her parents worked out an arrangement for her case. She had lots of counseling sessions and started getting close to her parents little by little. They paid for her to go to driving school and there is where she met Larry, the great love of her life and father of her baby. That is also where all hell broke loose…
To be continued….
Part Two – Next week.