Loading...
Life on the Edge: Biker Boys of the Dirt Island
Now Watching
Life on the Edge: Biker Boys of the Dirt Island
Next Suggested Video
The Team - Episode 9: Meetings
A crew of young men roars through the heart of Nairobi's Korogocho slum on motorcycles. But unlike most motorcycle gangs, this is a team of reformed crooks who have switched to helping people. Can they convince their friend to join before it's too late?
Flash Player 9.0.115+ or HTML5 video support is required to play this video.
Loading...

Produced by tve.

Purchase the DVD for this program at Bullfrog Films.

Loading...

Share this video

Include start time Get current time
Include related videos, articles & actions
Loading...

Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Mucina and Boniface, the motorcycle boys of Korogocho. They're among the first to own motorcycles on the Nairobi slum they call the "Dirt Island." Some say the motorcycle boys own this slum. And they've got their own ideas about improving slums. Are they a threat, or do they have anything to teach us? Kama's one of their new recruits. He's a rebel, even by motorcycle boy standards. This is their story.
TITLE
Biker Boys of the Dirt Island
VOICEOVER
Kama's home Korogocho is Kenya's fourth largest slum. Dirt Island has been home to many Kenyan crime lords. Like Kama, many young men here get involved in crime at some point in their lives.
BOY 1 [Rapping]
It's another, it's another...I'll build a nice house for you.
HENRY KAMAU [Motorcycle Boy]
I came to Korogocho when I was twelve years old. I used to steal clothes from the clothesline in the neighborhood. I wouldn't just wear them; sometimes I'd wear or sell them.
VOICEOVER
Kama reckons he was fortunate to move to Korogocho considering his line of work. It was almost as if they slum was designed for crime.
HENRY KAMAU
Alleys don't have issues, but if you pass on the main road you might meet the police and get shot by them. That's why I use the alleys when I steal, because you can hide here.
VOICEOVER
Kama's ambition was too big for Korogocho. It may seem designed for crime, but there's too little to steal. So Kama searched for wealthier targets in central Nairobi.
HENRY KAMAU
There are many people in town, man. You can look closely at someone and see that they have money. I can tell from the way they hold their bags. You can see someone walking on the road holding their bags tightly, always looking over their shoulder. I'm very observant. This town is ours.
VOICEOVER
Kama started "working" in Westlands, a posh suburb of Nairobi. This was after joining the Mungiki, a notorious vigilante group. He'd made serious profits by extorting money from minibus owners.
HENRY KAMAU
So I joined the Mungiki. Thirty-seven of us were initiated into it at that time in Westlands. These guys were my good friends. We worked together. We used to help each other out. They all died. I thought about my life and said no. The way people are dying; I can't die without leaving something behind. I met a girl named Ciku and we had a baby girl. Her name is Brigit.
VOICEOVER
Mucina also saw most of his friends die on the streets before he became the original motorcycle boy. He had an idea, which might be frowned on in conventional development economics.
FRANCIS MUCINA [Motorcycle Club Founder, Korogocho]
A friend of mine told me he had a plan and we would make a lot of money from it. We went and robbed a supermarket in Murang'a town. We took roughly 250,000 Kenya shillings.
VOICEOVER
The idea? Profits of crime ploughed into a legitimate business in the slums.
FRANCIS MUCINA
With the money I bought a bike and set up at the stage. We were only two motorbikes, and then we increased to four. At first people weren't comfortable with riding motorcycles, but after we became many they got used to it.
VOICEOVER
Mucina and his crew of motorcycle boys now provide much needed taxi services within Korogocho. From four motorcycle boys in the beginning, they have grown to forty -- including Kama.
HENRY KAMAU
I never planned to be a motorcycle boy. When I heard that the cops were hunting for me and counting my bullets, I decided to stop going to Westlands for a while.
FRANCIS MUCINA
Most of these guys are reformed criminals. We tell them, "Leave crime -- it doesn't work," that they will never lack money to meet their needs and be independent.
VOICEOVER
Boniface, one of the two original motorcycle boys, feels that crime profits have led to a lot of improvements in Korogocho, more than most people would care to admit.
BONIFACE MWANGI [Motorcycle Boy, Korogocho]
Here in Korogocho, you find that someone has set up a business but that shop is part-time employment. After stealing outside people come back and invest in businesses here. You can't just sit around idling, just relaxing. You'll look suspicious. The businesses that do well here are the illegal ones that cause harm.
VOICEOVER
Kama doesn't make the profits he used to make from full-time crime. But what he makes from the bikes is just enough.
HENRY KAMAU
For example, sometimes business is good and I can make a profit of about one thousand shillings, which takes care of all of my expenses. Most of my money is spent on my child Brigit. When she grows, I pray that she reads hard, and that she agrees to study hard in school.
VOICEOVER
Every day, Mucina walks his kids to school in the nearby Dandora estate, before going to work at the biker stage. He too feels that the motorcycle boys have made a difference in Korogocho.
FRANCIS MUCINA
These bikes are also a form of upgrading, because before, people couldn't walk there at night. People were being robbed a lot, but now that the bikes are carrying people they're now safe.
MAN 1
Sometimes I use these bikes when I'm late from work, because the road is not safe at night. There are many thieves. So these bikes really help us a lot when we use them.
VOICEOVER
Kama's still not sure about the motorcycle club, and he's not alone. Khadija is a member of the Korogocho Urban Upgrading Committee. She feels that building a youth center will be a more constructive solution to crime.
KHADIJA JUMA [Resident Committee Member, KSUP, Korogocho]
The youth center is about linking the talents that the youth have in Korogocho with business and then also there will be a mentoring process from the center, which will be acting as a coordination point. Maybe they can be dragged away from the crime or the changaa [illicit alcohol] they take.
VOICEOVER
Motorcycle boy Mucina is not just a motorcycle boy. He's involved in slum upgrading with Khadija and supports the youth center idea.
FRANCIS MUCINA
When the youth don't have a place set aside for them to meet, it's not good.
VOICEOVER
But Boniface feels that crime is about one thing only, and that the solution to it is very simple.
BONIFACE MWANGI
Here in Korogocho, life is difficult. You don't grow up with money. So when you find a means of getting money it has a big influence on you. Getting money is very important here in the ghetto, especially for the youth.
VOICEOVER
So Boniface believes in supporting businesses like the motorcycle club, and others that have followed in its wake. It's not what most people would think of as the best way to improve slums. Not everyone can ride bikes, but the motorcycle club has been successful in attracting and reforming some criminals. Boniface feels that it's important to include all rule breakers, criminals and potential criminals, in the Dirt Island's future.
BONIFACE MWANGI
If the youth are not involved in the upgrading process it won't happen, because these are the people who are thieves and they're the ones who can destroy things here. The administration is not stronger than the gangs here. The youth are trying to become independent, so they should support the bikes more.
FRANCIS MUCINA
We started this as the youth, and in the future we'll leave it for the others to carry it on.
VOICEOVER
Kama is not waiting on the future, though. He's making his own rules, which may not be anybody else's. But he's got the energy, if anybody wants it.
HENRY KAMAU
If you ask a child what they hope for in the future, you wouldn't find anyone who'd tell you that they want to be poor. If I had my own bike you wouldn't see me in the Westlands or find me going to steal. I can't just sit still. I always need to be busy, doing something.
TITLE
For more information, please visit: http://www.bullfrogfilms.com