It’s 6.45 pm along Bata Street in Voi town in Taita-Taveta county. Evening gloom is rapidly thickening into darkness as night approaches. The cloudy skies overhead cast a funer al air over the town. Street lights flutter to life. All over, shops are hastily closing down; windows are shuttering. A palpable sense of panicky urgency is in all these actions. Crowds are hurrying home as if fleeing from a coming plague. Taxis and tuk-tuks hoot frantically, calling out to passengers. Boda boda riders add to the bedlam as they dart in and out of the streets, hunting for last-minute passengers before the 7pm curfew falls.
A green police car, carrying a dozen grim-faced officers, cruises lazily past the street. The presence of armed officers reinforces the overwhelming feeling of wrongness hanging heavily over the town. “Wamefika!” (They have arrived!) One boda boda rider yells out to. The word rapidly spreads. Moments later, a town famous for its bustling life is hauntingly dead. This is the new reality for Voi town. Historically famed for its vibrant night life, the government imposed 7pm-5am curfew that started the previous Friday has wrecked night activities in this highway town. Over the years, Voi had earned the reputation of being one of the most active night hubs in Coast region. That is no more!
“The curfew has hit us so hard that we still don’t know what is happening,” admits Kennedy Mwazala, a night passenger attendant working for Chania Genesis Bus Company at Voi main stage. He is not alone. All night workers share his predicament. From miraa sellers, Kahawa Chungu brewers, boda boda and taxi operators, the curfew is nothing short of an unfolding nightmare. When night falls, Voi town instantly transforms into a ghost town. The deserted streets are hauntingly empty. In the darkness of stalls lining the stage, dozens of mentally-challenged people can be seen as they hide