When 24 year old Lydia Mburu landed a secretarial and printing assistant job at a small printing firm in Nairobi’s Luthuli Avenue in August last year on a friend’s recommendation, she just like any typical Kenyan job-seeker was happy to have found employment.
The job was not in line with the much desired journalism career that she had pursued in college but at least it was something! It was better than idling at home and it could put food on the table.
The pay was not substantial either but like every typical youth she took up the Sh3, 000 per week salary with optimism that the opportunity would be preparing her for a bigger job prospect.
She had no prior experience of printing but with a month’s training by the outgoing secretary, whom she identifies only by her first name Pauline, she hit the ground running.
At the onset, Paste Printers was just the typical printing shop and all she did was photocopy documents such as ID and certificates.
Allegedly, Pauline, who had already ceased working at the printing firm after training Lydia, would occasionally come back to the premises to print some documents, mostly IDs, saying she was there under the bosses’ instructions to print some documents.
Lydia observed that the nature of IDs that Pauline printed were not the typical duplicates that she (Lydia) used to make on a normal work day. Those Pauline made required special plastic cards that she would come with and looked just like the original IDs.
Lydia says she became curious and asked Pauline about them and at first she dismissed her by stating that they were special duplicates allegedly for people who didn’t want to carry their original in case of loss, to avoid the hassle that comes with replacing the document.
“How come you didn’t teach me how to print those,” she naively asked? Pauline laughed it off and said she forgot, said Lydia.
Weeks later, Pauline came clean about the nature of IDs she was printing and showed Lydia how to do it.
“Isn’t this illegal?” Lydia posed to Pauline.
“Hii ni Kenya my friend, ni kukaa rada” (“This is Kenya my friend, you have to play smart”.)
According to Lydia she never gave the issue much thought since Pauline would just come and go once in a while to do “her thing”.
A couple of months down the line, Lydia got a call from her boss, Francis Karichu, instructing her to print copies of IDs like those Pauline used to make. Karichu, who according to Lydia is highly secretive, hardly came to the printing shop, later instructed her on where to deliver them when she was done.
Torn between disobeying her boss, refusing to deliver on her work and losing her job, the fear of the latter prevailed and Lydia went ahead, and that marked her induction into the illicit trade.
Ordinarily, she says, the few times she printed the fake IDs; it was always under the instructions of her boss. She says he had a pick and drop location at a shop in downtown and as such, she has never met any of the persons who bore the identities of the IDs or even knew how much money they were charged since she never handled the clients.
“I expressed my concerns to my sister and told her to help me find another job so that I can quit,” Lydia says.
On 10th February 2018, Lydia allegedly got an unusual call from Pauline, who told her that she had referred a client to her and that he would call her for the services needed. She says she found it odd because previously Pauline would just pop in and do the work herself but on this particular day, she delegated the task.
“The client, who identified himself as “Maina”, called me and asked to deliver details of what he wanted captured on the IDs. I met him and he gave me four small envelopes and some two thousand, which he said was according to instructions by Pauline”.
Lydia left and went back to work and later in the day she called Maina to collect his documents. She later came to find out his real names are John Kiarie. He came and further paid her an additional two thousand. Pauline called Lydia shortly and asked her to Mpesa Sh2,000 only and keep the other two thousand.
“Should I forward the money to Karichu (the boss)?” Lydia asked.
“Hapana, kula lunch” (you can have some lunch with that), she responded.
Lydia says she never heard from “Maina” or Pauline again until two days to the day she was arrested.
“He called me and only said he would get in touch should he need similar services in the future,”
Officers from the Anti-terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) arrested Lydia a month ago for her role in procuring fake IDs that were used by suspected terrorists to gain access to the country in a foiled terror attack that IG Joseph Boinnet termed as the biggest thwarted attack in recent times based on the magnitude of the planned execution.
After her arrest, Lydia said she was shocked to discover the magnitude of the trouble she had landed herself in after the ATPU officers who arrested her informed her of her crime.
The main suspected terrorist identified by the police, Abdimajit Hassan, was arrested in Merti, isiolo, as he transported a vehicle laden with a total; 110 kilogrammes of explosive, five AK-47 riffles, 36 gun machines, three Nokia phones, 36 unprimed hand grenades, 18 pairs of grenade primers, five military-grade projectiles and three military knives.
According to the police, the terrorists were targeting key government installations including the Supreme Court, KICC and parliament building.
Lydia’s case will be heard on 16th April. She is still in custody as the prosecution asked for 30 days extension to complete their investigations.