Police, Peace and the Price of Freedom

This story may sound familiar to many of you.

The other day, a promising rapper was on matatu doing what promising rappers on matatus do: commuting.

panda train

The matatu conductor, like 99% of workers in the not-necessarily-formal sector of transport, was not in uniform and the driver was probably being an idiot.

Speaking of idiots, there was also a cop somewhere in the mix. Continue reading

“So They Didn’t Kill Them?”

Ed: It might help to read: “They killed them?” first

It’s funny how things pan out, isn’t it?

I had called John as we left my mothers apartment building and told him to come pick us up from the road outside. Even he seemed confused as to why I would wait for him outside. The thing is, we needed to go to the shop right outside to buy pesticides and some other item I forget so it only made sense. By the time we got down and had purchased the goods, he would be there. Or so we thought.

We had to wait a few minutes. Couldn’t have possibly been 10 minutes but a lot can happen in 10 minutes. A lot can happen in 2 minutes in fact; and I’ll give you an example. In two minutes, a motorcycle with 3 young men on it can ride by you. The man behind the handles can pull out a duct taped pistol (looked like a 9mm) as two others begin to offload you of…well, everything. They can get in your pockets and that of the lady behind you and pick everything they can carry off you. Then they can ride off and leave you destitute. Then you will remember every smart idea you had two minutes earlier for two minutes afterwards.

Continue reading

“They Killed Them?”

Everybody has a story.

This is primarily why given half a chance to get to know someone, I take it. Cab drivers are my favorite people to interact with. With the hours lost to traffic in this city, that time feels less wasted if you can learn even one new thing, make a new friend as your life gains a new dimension. One of my favorite cabbies, let’s call him John, hangs around the Ngong Road/Kilimani area quite a bit.

One day we found ourselves waiting for a larger group of people at Prestige Mall and he decided that we had ample time to get his car washed. So into Kibera we went, greeting miscellaneous folk on the road, the old lady that sells fruits, the kids who split into two groups and reenact AFC vs Gor every weekend, that random cop who we gave a ride when his cavalry was late and he had resulted to walk the distance. We waved, exchanged a word or three and then moved toward the “Car Wash”.

It technically wasn’t a car wash, just a place where these 7 or so youngsters hung around washing cars, listening to music and talking shit all day. I had only had the pleasure of talking to 4 of them, but not for lack of trying. They didn’t trust me. I wasn’t from there. They washed the car with no incident and at an extreme discount, returning lost monies – coins and notes alike – that had found themselves under the seats and in between consoles. He told them I would bring my car next time and we parted ways. Continue reading

Cops: Terrorizing People Since 19-Pat Opuk

A while back, I wrote this post explaining how and why my legs turn to jelly every time I see a cop. A longer while back, I did another post detailing how I was once arrested by City Council officers in Dar. It happened at a VCT centre where they decided that I looked like a hawker. I had just come from a Buguruni shopping spree, and I admit I looked suspect. It took a relative from the Kenyan Embassy, some really bad Swahili, and a diplomatic number plate to get me out, but man, that was scary.

I was talking to some guys who live abroad, and I realised the idea of law enforcers is the same everywhere, and it’s worse if you’re in a foreign country. Continue reading

Utumishi Kwa Wote

Every time I see a cop, I tense up. It’s reflex. And no, it’s not just because of my hair.

It’s more because somewhere in my Kenyan life, I realised that cops were far more scary than thugs.

Some weeks back, Maina Kageni was promoting Safcom’s latest offer on Matatu FM. Something about Opera Mini, 10MB, and 8 bob. He asked guys to call in and explain how and why they use it.

This one guy called in. He was very eloquent, spoke pretty good English with a bit of slang thrown in. I think he might have been from Buru [don’t ask me why].

I was paying attention until he said he was a cop. Apparently, he uses his Safcom to browse while he works.

The only part that Maina heard was ‘cop’. He immediately diverted to ‘Afande vipi’  mode, and the previously polished cop downgraded to the Kiganjo accent. He and Maina carried a two-minute dialogue in full policeman register, complete with the mixtures of Cs and Gs. It should have been quite funny, but I just got upset. Continue reading

Mugged in the Morning

Mugging

At 7am this morning, I was standing somewhere on Ng’ong road waiting for a shuttle. I had my black “he’s-probably-a-murderer” trenchcoat on and my laptop in it’s bag hanging on my shoulders. I leaned against one of the corners of the bus stop as I ran through the million and two things I needed to do before noon. Then this suspicious individual with alternating missing teeth decided to stand next to me. Continue reading