Nanyuki has a popularity associated with the ‘Johnnies’ (nickname for British soldiers training in Kenya – BATUK) and their exploits in town. These stories usually revolve around their relationship with Nanyuki’s sex workers. Some are outright horror stories about deceased women of the night, while others are hilarious recollections.
Prostitution is what it all revolves around. And while the batuk clients and the twilight girls take center stage, the real power players are the shady women waiting in the wings.
They are in charge of Nanyuki’s oldest profession, and without them, no local woman would dare approach a foreigner.
The town serves as a training ground for young British soldiers.
Meet the Madams of Nanyuki, a collection of women no prostitute would dare to cross lest she be expelled from the town.
They’re hard as nails, and their word is law. The secretive Big Mamas are so strong that they run a parallel government and even regulate the price of alcohol in various drinking establishments in Nanyuki.
The town is the last ‘sane’ place before British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) soldiers face the hostile northern terrain of Isiolo, Samburu, and Laikipia counties during the course of their training.
Eye on development projects
On weekends, the soldiers can be seen walking in groups, scouting for the best malls and entertainment joints ready to mingle with Nanyuki’s beauties.
The arrival of new military units to Nanyuki brings a windfall to almost every sector in the town.
The presence of the soldiers in Kenya injects much needed cash into the counties of Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu, a fragment that trickles down to the hustlers.
From curio sellers to meat suppliers to taxi drivers, life changes for the better with arrival of each unit.
However, it is the twilight girls that look out for more from the young soldiers than these “development projects”. In some drinking outlets, the cost of beverages is exaggerated with the soldiers willing to pay the high price compared to local patrons.
Under strict tutelage of the Big Mamas who are also veterans in the trade, only a select few girls get the soldiers’ contacts in order to further their carnal agenda.
In order to protect their business and avoid being kicked out of the high table, the twilight girls will not reveal the identities of their Madams, only revealing the criteria used to select the soldiers’ consorts.
“The brief from the soldiers is to look for tall and slender girls who can communicate well in English. They like girls who are natural, the Africa beauty poster girl,” says one of the girls who refused to reveal her identity.
Once they arrive in Nanyuki, or Mwisho wa Reli, from other parts of the country, the twilight girls stay in the posh estates where rent is paid by the soldiers. These girls prefer the ‘Johnnies’ as they are “kind and caring as compared to African men.”
Nanyuki Mixed – Race Children
Insiders in the trade say on a good day, the select few take home not less than Sh5,000, cash which is shared with the Madams, who in turn have invested in residential and rental homes in local villages.
The results of the unholy alliance are the many mixed-race children sired by these men while the girls have invested in plots where they have built rental structures.
Conversely, those girls unable to match the recommended standards are thrown out of the bars and left to hover around for the local drunk and fatigued ‘lovers’.
Jane Muthoni, a resident of Karatina, says it is hard to get close to the soldiers when they are in Nanyuki’s bars due to security.
“Even if the soldier is interested in you, the ‘local leadership’ must endorse you first,” says Muthoni. “It is not a walk in the park to have a soldier near you or there will be a severe fight.” Muthoni is a victim of such fights but has since learnt to respect ‘authority’.
Monica Njeri is among those who entertain the Johnnies and would not want rabblerousers near her since the soldiers have her contacts and inform her when and where to link up for drinks and ‘extra’ business.
Like other girls, she had to undergo a rigorous recruitment exercise from one Madam. Many twilight girls eager to join the squad, adds Njeri, are rejected depending on the results of the background checks that include their HIV status.
“The friendship is unbreakable because troops that leave the country pass on the contacts to incoming units, ensuring continuity,” says Njeri.
Muthoni, mentioned earlier, regrets how the Madams denied her the opportunity to befriend the soldiers despite her previous background in the hospitality industry.
However, the older generation of ‘girls’ say it is becoming hard to protect their turf against the onslaught of young blood.
Susan Kagendo, a resident of Likii and now in her 50s, says it was easier to hook up with the soldiers as they used to move in groups looking for the men in local bars.
“In our days, the soldiers could sleep in our houses at a fee. That’s how many managed to invest even after they left the country as we kept communicating through letters,” says Kagendo.
The Madams have been there for ages as they make money from connecting the soldiers with the girls, acting as some form of “insurance” should anything go wrong between the two parties