Yesterday I got my Mac Laptop stolen in Kampala. I am annoyed.
1. Because it got stolen
2. Because now when people ask ‘Is Nairobi/Kampala/Africa (apparently its one whole country) safe? Aren’t you scared of your stuff getting taken?’ I have to say, ‘No, I’m not, but these things happen and yesterday my laptop got taken’ and they retort ‘Oh well its not safe, I’m going to book my holiday to Spain instead’. Silly people.
3. I have to go through the cumbersome but not impossible system of getting it reported to the police and the follow up for insurance.
So instead of getting angry or upset I thought I’d be helpful. This blog post is for those in East Africa who may also get something stolen and don’t know how to go about reporting and replacing their items. Although the silly friends who book Madrid over Nairobi or Kampala can stay there.
Note – I have had various items taken in both Uganda and Nairobi now and have noted that the process is almost identical (except for the report bank deposit in Uganda, I will point this out in bold in the article). If you are also within East Africa and wish to comment on your country below or any tips or experience then please do so to help others as well.
What has gone missing? And where?
In my case my laptop was taken during an exhibition. I had to first alert security and search the premise to make sure it hadn’t been placed or handed in to lost property. Make sure they didn’t take anything else as its very hard to go back and claim your Laptop and NOW say your wallet has gone missing. Secondly, we watched the CCTV tapes of the time and location of where it took place.
Upmarket hotels, restaurants and facilities often have very good CCTV and an establishment will be very unwilling to assist until they have evidence it took place on their property. They will make you go through the tapes as there are many scams of people crying wolf and seeking compensation. If you believe that you can work out the claim between yourself and the establishment, then you can try going down this route but no promises. Try to stay calm. If the place where it got stolen are being uncooperative, try speaking to the manager and if you really need to escalate and there are no further routes then get on social media to warn others of a potential place you feel is unsafe.
Going to the Police
Once you have seen the suspect on the CCTV or the security has agreed that it has happened, you’ll need to go the police station. Ask where the nearest one is and see if they are willing to go with you as having someone who can speak in swahili or another local language on your behalf will work wonders. Once you arrive at the police station, as a foreigner, the chances are you’ll be ushered into another room or in front of the queue (this happened to me several times, but your experience may be different). If you are not comfortable being given this extra treatment, then agree to queue like everyone else and simply wait your turn. Upon reaching the front of the queue you’ll be asked for a witness statement and a crime report which is then stamped by the officer.
Witness Report and Crime Report
These forms are written by the police but the information is given entirely verbally by you. Be patient and give as much information as possible. Sadly these forms are not for them to go and catch the bad guy. This happens very rarely. The form is for you to let the insurance company know what has gone missing, that you have tried to identify the culprit and that you have gone to the effort of getting the report. It can take over an hour and this where your Swahili speaking contact can come in handy.
There are lots of miscommunications that can happen and if the police officer gets it wrong, your insurance company can have a field day noting that the time/date/your name/his name/serial number of item are incorrect and therefore null and void. Again, try to be patient. The policeman is also trying to do his job, and believe me they don’t want foreigners in their police stations crying about their lost phones and cameras when they have drunken teenagers or gang members to deal with. Overall, they are friendly but they have extremely limited resources so don’t be surprised if they ask you for paper or a pen to help write their report.
Questions in the report
Try to be patient whilst they go through some of these typical questions I’ve come across:
What time was this? What date? Who were you with?
Have you identified the suspect? Is there CCTV? Describe how they looked?
What did they take? Serial number of item? ID number? Value?
What steps have you taken to retrieve the item?
Tell me in detail what happened? (even if you have just done this)
What is your full name? (even if you have told them ten times)
The Police coming to you
Our neighbours were sadly broken into and they, like us, are from a country where the police would be at the scene within the following hour. This does not happen in Kenya unless you are willing to compensate the police for their time. You’ll also have to call your security company first to get a report for you, and if the company is good, they’ll handle the police side for you.
Many police stations here will say they do not have fuel for their cars or that when they arrive they’ll need something to drink or ‘chai’ or something else. Going down this route is entirely at your discretion. However, when I got my bag stolen from a very nice hotel in Eldoret in Western Kenya the police arrived with 5 minutes. They did not ask for any compensation and were very friendly and courteous. I got a police report stamped and signed within 20 minutes. However, when I got my laptop stolen in Kampala in Uganda yesterday I spent 2 hours in the station.
To be honest with you, your experience outside of large cities with the police may be one that is more understanding and friendly. This of course comes down to them as individuals and also the way you react as well. Try not to get too angry and they’ll reciprocate by trying to be understanding. Remember the item you have lost might be triple or ten times what they earn in a month so don’t act too irrational about something you can get replaced easily.
Getting the report
You’ll need the report for insurance. Getting it can become a bit of a song and dance affair. In Kenya I had to go and talk to the Chief Commissioner which resulted in a 20 minute conversation about British football, his hand teasingly resting above the beaurucratic stamp until I released the information about who I thought would win the Premier League. It was only once I forcefully agreed with him that Chelsea would win that his hand came down with a heavy clamp and my precious paper was happily handed over. You need it stamped. If you don’t or you get impatient your insurance company won’t accept it and you are getting nothing. Be patient. Deep breaths. Brush up on your football knowledge.
In Uganda its different. In order to get a police report you have to deposit 70,000UGX in the bank in order to get an official report. Now. There are two options. In the first instance, without paying anything, you’ll get a ‘To Whom It May Concern’ report from the police for free which is stamped, dated and signed. You can try and see if your insurance company will accept this. If they do…great! If not, you will have to deposit the 70,000UGX which the police department will give you in the form of cryptic bank details which is directly deposited with the bank. My advice would be to find a kind local person who maybe your company works with or a senior hotel staff member who knows the process and who you trust to get it done. The report takes 3 days…it can take up to 2 weeks…Be patient and keep a proof of payment in case your insurance company start to be difficult.
Put your apples products on ‘Find My iPhone’ or an alternative app on your phone and you’ll get a note when it gets turned on by the person who stole it. My friend actually managed to get her phone back in Nairobi by doing this. Though it involved a very precarious trip to CBD…
Write down all your Serial items when you buy them and store them somewhere safe as your insurance will require this for a refund.
Scan all copies of your ID: Alien ID; Passport; Driver’s Licence and bank cards or write them down and store them safe.
Keep all your documents on the Cloud or another back up (I use Dropbox, also great for photos).
If they stole a Camera or a Bike, check the online stores in Kenya like http://www.olx.co.ke as they often sell high value items and you can track your item down. Also get your Bike chipped and scanned back home/serial coded as well.
Home Invasions: Get good security, consider CCTV, a dog, paying your security well, noting all points of entry and exit and how to secure them properly as well.
Please comment below if you have any other tips or resources.
In emergencies in Kenya call 999 for emergency services.