Carjackings, assassination, terrorist threat driving demand for armoured cars in Kenyan
Kenyan companies have begun offering armoured cars amid an increase in violent crime and concern for personal safety in the country.
By some estimates the most common crime in Kenya is carjacking and armed robbery, with the Kenyan Bureau of Consumer Affairs estimating that as many as 10 carjackings happen in the city every day.
Public transport is the target of many carjackings because the minibuses, known as “matatus”, can carry up to 14 passengers.
But the crime wave also claims higher-profile victims. In February this year, prominent federal MP George Muchai was shot dead in his car.
Security consultant Francis Maina said there had been an increase in the number of violent crimes.
“The crime has really spiked up,” he said. “There is a new trend; either they are hit men or they are psychopaths who just want to kill and steal.”
‘Someone can shoot a weapon and you have no problem at all’
The Muchai assassination, coupled with regular violent crime, has significantly raised the community’s awareness of personal safety.
There are now several companies offering armoured cars in Kenya.
One of them is Toyotsu, a company that usually imports second hand Toyotas from Japan and the UK.
The company is now bringing in four-tonne armoured cars which anyone – so long as they can pay for it – can buy.
Armoured car dealer Ravraj Sirha said the best place to start was with a standard Toyota Land Cruiser.
“When you’re inside it, absolutely you have no worries,” he said.
“You can sit in traffic. You can get someone to come up to the window at point blank range and shoot a weapon at you and you have no problems at all.”
The cars are fitted with ballistic steel and bulletproof windows.
Mr Sirha showed us a video of a bodyguard shooting at the glass and the bullets failing to penetrate the 60-kilogram window.
The engines are protected and there are even ports in the doors where you can fire your own weapons out if there happens to be a fire fight.
Another of the attractions, Mr Sirha said, was that the cars looked like a standard model unless you know precisely what to look for.
There is no discernible difference between the armoured models and the non-armoured ones to my untrained eye.
He said that was because people did not want to draw any attention to themselves.
It is interesting to listen to these features from a new car salesman – not what you would expect from a dealer in Rockhampton or Warrnambool.
“Unfortunately, due to the insecurity in Kenya, especially with all the Al Shabaab and the terrorism, we’re finding an increased number of enquiries and an increased number of sales,” Mr Sirha said.
The number of attacks by Al Shabaab in major metropolitan centres has decreased in recent months, but security analysts continue to advise that the group has the potential to carry out large-scale attacks like the one on the Westgate Shopping Centre in September 2013.
If that happens, demand for armoured cars will only increase; a growth industry in personal protection.