The rise in citywide crime is palpable. The once-reluctant robbers and thieves who were accustomed to carrying out their crimes only at night now brazenly perform their routines in broad daylight, marking a victim and then committing what many consider to be unthinkable. Sadly, not much is usually done until it hits close to home.
The stories of theft and robberies that Sosina Abebe, a 23-year-old student at Addis Ababa University, has heard from everyone around her have made her extremely careful with her possessions. She was careful not to draw undue attention to herself by not flashing her phone and cash, and she made an effort to remain vigilant at all times.
But alas, despite her diligence and safety measures, her phone was taken on the way home from school. However, the manner in which she was robbed is what left her terrified and traumatized. She cannot recall how or when her phone was taken from the interior pocket of her jacket, where she concealed it.
Sosina was among the unfortunate victims of the long-running theme of what appears to be getting drugged and robbed in Addis Ababa. Moments after entering a taxi from Bole to Saris in Addis Ababa, as she typically does, she experienced a state of numbness, as if she had a total blackout.
“I cannot recall much of what transpired within the taxi. All I remember is a feeling of numbness, and it was a complete blur,” said Sosina. “The next thing I remember is being told to exit the taxi and being practically forced out.”
She claims what brought her back to reality was the fresh air hitting her face when she stepped out of the taxi. “But for a few minutes, I had no idea where I was or what had happened,” she added, still shaken by what had occurred.
After a few minutes of walking, she realized she was in the vicinity of Bole Michael, which, according to her, was a surprise because she hadn’t recognized it for some time despite frequenting the area.
Sosina discovered that her phone had been stolen when she reached into the jacket compartment, where she kept it concealed. As soon as she realized what was happening, she felt as if the ground beneath her had collapsed.
In that instant, panic set in. She began requesting a phone from those nearby so she could contact her older brother. “A kind stranger lent me her phone, and I called my brother and told him what had happened and where I was so that he could come and get me.”
The incident traumatized Sosina, and she now fears that it will happen to her or a loved one again. As a result of their own experiences of being drugged and plundered, a large number of individuals have, sadly, been traumatized in the same way.
In certain instances, the substance or drug is so potent that its effects last longer than a few hours. Victims may not even be fortunate enough to return to reality in locations that are nearby or familiar to their route.
Alem Mekonnen, a 32-year-old victim who was also drugged and robbed, is unfortunately another example of the robbery that has residents so concerned that they are considering alternative modes of transportation, such as traveling in groups or simply walking.
Alem was walking from Sidist Kilo to Arat Kilo after completing her duties in that area when she was drugged. She has no recollection of the where, when, or method of her drugging. In fact, she has no recollection of being touched or touching anything or anyone.
Since that day, Alem says she has contemplated it multiple times and attempted to pinpoint the exact moment she was drugged, but to no avail. “All I can recall is that I was walking to find a taxi to return home, and the next thing I knew, I was near an unfamiliar church,” she explained.
After she came through, despite the fact that it took her some time to realize what had happened, she searched in her purse for her phone, but both of the phones she had with her were stolen.
It took her some time to determine where she was and how she got there after asking around and getting a taxi back home. Thankfully, the robbers did not steal the money she had on her. It took a day for her to feel completely normal, according to her, after she returned home and continued to experience the effects of the drug.
“To this day, I have a deep fear that it will happen to me again, and I have been so traumatized that I have anxiety whenever strangers walk too close to me or something,” she explained.
Alem and Sosina are unfortunately not the only ones who have experienced similar trauma. Despite the differing accounts of family members and acquaintances with similar experiences, no explanation has been provided as to what is causing these memory lapses or what type of drug is being used in these incidents that make people give away their possessions willingly but unknowingly.
“After my experience, when I told my friends and family about it, they were generally familiar with the concept because they had heard that the same thing had happened to other people they knew,” Sosina noted.
Even though the above incidents are recent, this method of robbing individuals of their jewelry, cell phones, and cash using the same means dates back at least a decade.
Tirita Getachew, who formerly had a stationary store in Saris, recounts that she experienced something similar almost 15 years ago. “I recall the situation vividly. After completing my business at the bank and withdrawing funds, I caught a taxi.”
She says that’s all she can recall.
She claims that when she exited the taxi, she was completely unharmed, but that she lost her phone, the cash she had withdrawn, and her gold necklace. Though she says she is grateful she was unharmed, explaining the situation at such a young age to a family that was not familiar with the method of theft at the time was not easy.
Robel Girmaw, who was a university student nearly 10 years ago, was traveling from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa when he had an encounter with the robber. He says he was not robbed on the journey but rather after arriving in Dire Dawa. He claims to have engaged in lengthy conversations with his seatmate during the voyage.
“However, when we arrived in Dire, I wound up taking the man home and giving him my laptop for no apparent reason. I regained my composure after the individual had left,” he said, grateful the robber did not ask for more valuable items from his home.
Theft and robbery are only getting worse in the city as a result of factors such as the rapidly expanding population, the high cost of living, the high unemployment rate, and other similar factors. Criminals and other opportunists are always on the lookout for new methods to make money, often stepping over the line and hurting other people in the process.