I will start by confessing that the first bride I ever paid… and may I point out it was due to extortion, was to a Kenyan Official. I was 16/17 years old, my lil sis and I were travelling to Kenya by bus from Uganda and we happened to fall upon a health official at the border. At that time there was still need for the cholera and yellow fever card, sometimes they asked for it sometimes not. The details are hazy but I think sis had forgetten her card or one of the vacinations had expired. The official then asked for her passport, thereafter he begun threatening her with “utalala hapa kwa cell” (you will spend the night in the cell). Meanwhile all the passengers had boarded the bus and the driver was ready to leave. He came back and tried to negotiate with the official who refused to hand over sister’s passport. Driver took me aside and asked me if I had any money and I should hand it to the official. I think I gave the man about Ksh 200. That was a lot those days. Subsequently, I have had to pay may Kenyan Officials to do their work. In Uganda, I have only ever paid it once and it was a woman, again extortion.
A week ago I was making my way back to Denmark. I had a day flight. The night before I had booked a taxi from our local area. Njoro (taxi driver’s name) was on time. He came in his battered little car. Didn’t bother me one bit. Mum sat in the co driver’s seat, I was at the back and with my suitcase. His boot/trunk was too dirty. Off we go. Njoro was lively telling us of the development in our area soon we were on Mombasa road. Just after the new Hotel, Pangari there is a major road block. I saw the cops and knew we were going to get stopped.
Mum was non too pleased, I was thinking, ok, what could be wrong. The last time I was stopped at the same road I had to pay a bribe. Again extortion. One of the passengers in the back seat was not wearing a seat belt and was told to “panda gari” (climb into the police van). It was a friday night, and it would have entailed our passenger being held till Monday before appearing before a judge. Unfortonately for the cop, it was dark, I could not see how much money I gave him, when I reached the airport (again I was on my way to the airport) I realised I had given him Ksh 50.. I was pleased that that was all he got. He must have been mad when he found out!
Anyway, so here we are at about 9,30am on Mombasa Rd. Cop asks for Njoro’s DL and he gives it to him. Then cop peers into the car and realises we are passengers on the way to the airport. He goes around the car and the circus begins “Hii gari haina miguu…. wewe hauna miguu”(your car tyres are finished). Mum starts muttering stuff about me not listening to her about which cab driver to use.. I am thinking “fuck this shit, it cannot be happening again”. Njoro is pleading and begging asking the cop “Nitafanya nini, si tuonge vizuri” (lets sort this out). Cop just keeps going on and on, finally he tells Njoro that he will hold on to Njoro’s DL and when Njoro returns they will discuss it!!
Back on track we are off. Mum is pissed majorly. She says there is another road block at the entrance of the Airport and the cops also inspect cars. I am like “nah they do not… it’s just security”. Njoro is going on about “Hii ndiyo sababu polisi wanaulia kilasiku na sisi hatujali” (this is the reason cops are killed and we feel nothing). We get to the airport and as surely as the sun rises, a cop with his stupid fimbo under his arm stops us very quickly, you could just see he was out for money. Njoro curses, mum mutters more about me not listenining and if only I had listened to her. I just want to cry for Njoro and because I am angry.
Cop asks Njoro for his DL again. Mum tells cop that another cop at the first road block has it and Njoro has to return. Cop looks at the car and says the car is not road worthy. Mum says to cop, since other cop has Njoro’s DL cop should let him go cause he has a case pending with previous cop. Cop feels nothing. Tells us to get out of the car and he will find another car to take us to the terminal while he takes Njoro away. Njoro is about to cry. I am angry beyong belief. Mum is pissed beyond pissed because I did not fucking listen to her about which cab to book. We are all pissed.
Cop stops a green RAV 4. Intention, RAV 4 will drive us to the terminal. The guy locks eyes with me assess situation and figures he is not about to get involves. Guy says he is not going to the terminal, cop lets him go. Finally he says to Njoro to take us and he will follow Njoro. Njoro gets in, he is shaking, I am pissed, mum is quiet. I pay Njoro while he drives. It cost me Kshs 1200. I have only a one thousand note. He asks if I have two 500 notes I say no. He takes his wallet out and starts putting the money in different nooks in the car. We get to terminal. I have been looking behind, cop is not there.. maybe he did not follow. We are out of the car, cop is right behind us. He walks to Njoro. We say fare well. As we live I hear him ask Njoro “Kwani hawakulipi”. (are they not paying you).. I never heard the response.
Mum and I say farewell. I check in, I am already emotional about Njoro and saying bye to mum is the breaking point. At the immigration desk, I break down. The official is kinda nice, my eyes are swollen with unshed tears and he is being nice. I finish with him, I go straight to the toilet and have a good cry. Finally, I dry my eyes, flash the toilet, I got out look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are red, I look bad.
I hate Kenyan police. I haven’t yet asked mum about Njoro, she may still be pissed that I did not listen to her about which cab driver to book!