Today’s post was supposed to be the final installment of my travel diaries but something happened that took precedence-i got locked up. (insert Akon’s ‘Locked up’ track here for max effect.)
The morning was the same old same old. I’d left the house by 6.45am and got a matatu heading to town. The moment i’m seated I usually plug in my earphones to drown out the selection of Kenyan morning radio the driver’s chosen to regale us with. Wonder why their choice is always crap.. I line up some soft music on my mp3 player and fall asleep till I get to town as the traffic can play havoc on one’s patience and I’ve run out of stuff to stare out the window at. Today was no different….up till I noticed a cop walk down the aisle of the matatu. Thinking it was their usual random spot checks I went right back to sleep. The matatu began moving again then stopped after sometime so people could get off. Thinking that we had finally reached the Muthurwa bus station I moved to alight. Shock on me when I realized the place we were at was the Makongeni police station near Makadara. What the heck??!! Ok, i’d have to get another matatu to town, perhaps be half an hour late to work but no biggy. Woe unto the conductor and driver I thought.
Well, woe unto me!! ALL the passengers were ushered into the police station. “What the…?!” . Whatever it was I was innocent. I was absolutely clueless as to what was going on so i turned to the guy who’d been sitting beside me in the mat and asked what was going on. We’d apparently been shikwad because we hadn’t fastened our seatbelts as well as the matatu carrying one excess passenger. “Ok, … Ummmhh…whats going to happen to US?”. We’ll be charged and fined, he says so I figure it should be a matter of minutes before we pay our 500 shilling fine at the station and grab the next mat into town… Or so i believed. As per the Modus Operandi with our Police Force somehow they rarely respond with a straight answer when one asks them what exactly is happening. I am of the mind that it’s to instill as much fear in the accused as possible so that the bribe they will eventually ask you for will seem like peanuts in light of what [you dont know] would happen to you…Fear of the unknown I tell you. That must be why most of us were terrified of the dark once upon a time-the presence of unknown things creeping in the shadows.
Our names were written down and afterwards we stood around the ‘jail yard’. Haha, i laugh at that term. While I was there basking in the sunshine tweeting about my misfortunes it came to me how funny the situation was-It was “rec time” and we the convicts were getting our daily dose of fresh air and sunshine. A few people walked out after doing [the deed we cannot mention]. The rest of us were ushered into a 7 aside style van. Usually these vehicles should fit 14 (and that with a slight squeeze) but they filled us in there like omena. 25 in total. No seatbelts and carrying excess. Wow, the irony was hilarious. Hadi a joke was cracked bout the lack of seatbelts for us to funga and everyone burst out laughing.
We were being taken to Makadara Law Courts. A fast procedure it should have been. I’d been gathering intel since I realized what my ‘makosa’ was. One is taken to court, appears before a judge, pleads guilty after which you have someone pay a 500 shilling fine to have you realeased. I hadn’t really thought we’d be held before seeing the judge so it was quite a surprise when they ushered us into the cells. Aaaarggh! The ladies cell was past the guys cell. Peeking into their cell they were soo many just standing about with drawn faces. I couldn’t see any seated. Panic mode! I enter the ladies cell and find there were 2 benches lined up against 2 consecutive walls. Both of them were fully occupied so I had to stand.
But thank God they seemed to have just cleaned the cell cause the smell in the air was that you’d find in a morgue-a strong hint of formalin,with a hint of urea. Eventually my nose got used to it. I just smelt my clothes to confirm I hadn’t carried the smell with me but I can’t trust my nose after the 7 hours exposure. They are soo going in the wash along with a generous dose of dettol, yikes.
The cop closes the door on us and so i survey my surroundings. Guess who I was with in the cell?? Conje herself! The last time i was seated in the same room as she was the boarding lounge in Dubai as we waited to grab the plane to Kenya. Talk about an absolute change of scenery and circumstance! I sat beside her for about half an hour wondering how I’d work that small coincidence into the conversation. Si we would have laughed at our misfortunes, hehe.
The atmosphere inside was a mix of angry, distraught and helpless souls. We, the seat-belt sisters, were furious. There were some who’d been arrested the night before on charges of drunken misconduct. They were distraught cause one cop had lied they’d be fined sijui 800,000. And they say ‘Utumishi kwa Wote’.. I think not! The helpless souls were 4 women who had been accused of theft. They said they were innocent but their knowledge of our judicial system had them apprehensive of their fate-a stint at Lang’ata Womens’. There was one who didn’t speak..no one knew her story. A tall sudanese girl no older than 17 yrs. For her I was most afraid…she was soo young, what could honestly have been her ‘crime’?
So, the boss, my family and some friends were informed of the situation. The boss was the only one who didn’t laugh at me! A sizeable proportion of my friends and family did. Shame on them! I was laughing at myself, but I am allowed to do that, it was MY predicament hence I had laughing rights.
After like ages in the cell waiting they finally called us in. They let you into the holding cell with all your personal effects so I had my phone and bag on me. Took a few pictures (after all this doesn’t happen everyday does it?) The courtroom was less flashy than the Vioja Mahakamani one. All white and well lit with refreshing wind blowing through the wide open windows. The presiding judge walked in, stand, sit, names called out, answer with a curt “Yes, Sir!”, charges read, unanimous guilty plea. Then. The judge asks whether the matatu had seat-belts. “Well..” No one really wants to stand out so we all mumble no. She then asks why we’ve pleaded guilty then…’Ummh, cause that’s what we were told to plead to avoid drama,’ im sure all of us are thinking. She proceded to state that if there were no seatbelts in the matatu then it was not we who should have been charged but the driver and tout. As she said this we felt the virtual slap she’d given the cops for harassing us unwarrantingly-A bunch of hard working kenyans building their nation yet the true criminals were rolling around freely [flaunting traffic rules ofcourse] in their GK vehicles. She discharged all of us with a warning and the atmosphere was one of joyous victory over our oppressers. We thought we’d be released immediately but they then proceded to hold us for 3 more hours stating the excuse that our files had to becleared and brought back before we could go anywhere. Shucks! That must have just been punishment to ensure we remember our place despite the judges ruling…
I have no confidence in the Kenyan police and this incident just confirmed that feeling.