Nairobi information markets in everything

I recently spent several weeks in the slum districts of Nairobi, researching al-Shabaab’s criminal activities in the Horn of Africa. I expected to learn about the traditional criminal practices of terrorist groups: drugs, arms, money laundering, and perhaps even a regional particularity like sugar smuggling. What I wasn’t expecting to discover was a highly structured, hierarchical network in which sex workers sell information gleaned from their customers — specifically, corrupt police officers — to al-Shabaab. As one interviewee noted, “If you want information here, you use the prostitutes and street kids — they see everything, go everywhere, and nobody notices them.”

The strength and depth of this sex worker-militant network surprised me and many terrorism experts in the West I spoke with, but it’s an open secret among Nairobi residents. My first interview subject didn’t understand why I wanted more details — surely everyone knew about it? Many of my interviewees were neighbors of, or otherwise friendly with, the sex workers involved. They described an arrangement in which al-Shabaab offered money to women who picked up interesting information in the course of their regular sex work — pillow talk from politicians, police officers, and businessmen. One local memorably opined: “Of course! Half the reason these men go to [sex workers] is to complain about their lives. Why not get paid for listening?”

Here is more from Katherine Petrich.


If the links these women have with terrorists is so well known why do the police and government officials confide in them?

One explanation might be that the policemen know that the women pass information to the terrorists, and exploit this to deliberately leak information that will help them to capture or deceive the terrorists (who, once they catch on to this, may pass doubly-deceptive information to the prostitutes, etc etc ad infinitum). Another explanation is that the policemen are simply stupid and lack self-control. This being Nairobi, the second option is probably more realistic.

If the police know about this intelligence and intentionally plant counterintel, how long before the terrorists and criminals learn they can't trust this information?

The police are more stupid than "everyone" including children?

"The police are more stupid than "everyone" including children?"

Yes, they ought to be known as The Kenyastone Cops.

" the policemen are simply stupid and lack self-control" -- That is true the world over. And not just policemen - most men think first with their little brains, and only secondarily with their big brains. And you might be surprised by what small and seemingly insignificant bits of data might be useful.

Another possibility is that they don't actually care (see also, the excerpt describing them as "corrupt"). This also fits with it being common knowledge, since if most people minded it probably couldn't be.

'surprised me and many terrorism experts in the West'

Clearly, none of them are readers of Hunter S. Thompson's 50 year old book concerning the Hell's Angels.

Or watchers of GoT.

Petrich’s statement is an echo from “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887), in which Sherlock Holmes explains how he uses street urchins (called “the Baker Street Irregulars” in a later story):

"There's more work to be got out of one of those little beggars than out of a dozen of the force," Holmes remarked. "...These youngsters, however, go everywhere and hear everything. They are as sharp as needles, too; all they want is organization."

Or more recently the writing of George R.R. Martin with Varys collecting "whispers" from little children.

Or less recently Kipling's Kim.

How do you think Trump got the information that won him the election?

More seriously the interesting question isn't that this is the system but why all the overeducated fools who should know don't. Maybe someone wrote a report describing the system and how they found out, pushed it up the chain in Washington and got demoted or reassigned so as to protect the tender feelings of the diversified.

"Maybe someone wrote a report describing the system and how they found out, pushed it up the chain in Washington and got demoted or reassigned so as to protect the tender feelings of the diversified."

You are free to dream as much as you want.

It goes both ways. Cops extort information from whores.

"researching al-Shabaab’s criminal activities in the Horn of Africa."

... things must be really slow back in D.C.

how did this odd research topic even make the Top-10,000 List of potential economic/social research subjects ?

Sex, drugs and money. Gosh, who could have known? And the idea that cops and bureaucrats are corrupt isn't exactly a news flash. I guess the real "news" is the deep infrastructure al-Shabaab has in Nairobi. But then again, who'd want to base their organization in Somalia?

The truth about Red China the mainstream do not want you to know:

Red China-controled media acknowledges President Captain Bolsonaro's fight against Red China's predatory actions.

I will register my skepticism this is nothing but gossip. You get to hear a lot of conspiracy theories in Africa in my experience. Usually best to ignore them.

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