Holiday Nightmare in Nairobi Kenya

John Kuot went to South Sudan to celebrate Christmas with family and friends and all was well… until his fateful decision to spend New Year in Nairobi. John was held at gunpoint by thieves, his car was hijacked – and then he was shot in the head by police.

John’s cousin picked him up from Nairobi airport and arrived at the motel entrance and began chatting to the security guard when “all hell broke loose.”

A man with a gun emerged out of the darkness and tried to pistol whip one of the security guards. The guards bolted, leaving John and his cousin at the mercy of the gun-wielding assailant and his accomplice who took over the driver’s seat and ordered John and his cousin to sit in the back with the gun man.

“The guy with the gun requested 100,000 Kenyan shillings, which is equivalent to $US1000 but we told  him we couldn’t afford that because we’re young and students as well,” John said.

“We negotiated for quite a while, obviously due to the hostile environment and situation we manage to negotiate down to $US600. I had $300 on me, so they took that … but they still wanted the $600 sent to them.

“I called a cousin of mine and told her about the situation asking her to help me out with the money and we advised her not to get the police involved at this stage. They drove us around for over an hour before my cousin managed to send the money through.”

They went to an ATM where his cousin withdrew money when a police officer doing his neighbourhood rounds spotted the parked car and flashed his headlights.

“All of a sudden, the robbers panicked and sped off, and the police officer pointed his gun at the fleeing car, spraying it with bullets. The driver wasn’t hit… I was the one hit on the head on the front seat and my cousin was hit in the arm and leg.”

The robbers drove for 10 minutes before jumping out of the car and bolting. John drifted in and out of consciousness as his cousin tried to find help when some police officers came to his aid.

The bullet was lodged in John’s brain and the police officer rushed him to hospital where a neurosurgeon saved his life.

Two months later, he was cleared to return to Australia but not before having to raise $30,000 to pay for his medical expenses.

Still on crutches since his return in February, John said he is lucky to be alive: “The bullet hit the right side of my brain and caused a paralysis to the left side of my body but with time and physiotherapy I hope to make progress.”

He is very critical of the Australian Government which he said “did literally nothing” and the Kenyan police never contacted him about the incident.

John’s story aired on Today Tonight on April 18th –

“I’m a normal tax-paying citizen and Australia did not even reach out to me and my family; we were left stranded and had to do everything ourselves,” he said.

John’s advice for fellow African Australians going on holidays to Africa is always have travel insurance and take extra precautions such as never carrying a lot of cash.


Sidique is the founder of Salt Magazine. He came to Australia in 2001 after fleeing a civil war in his homeland of Sierra Leone. He studied journalism at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and worked as a reporter for the Statesman Newspaper. He studied a Bachelor of Arts specialising in Multimedia Studies at the University of South Australia.

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