THE BURDEN AND CURSE OF COMING FROM THE WRONG TRIBE UNDER JUBILEE.
Via Anwar Sadat
I left my hotel room today at around 9am and made my first stop at Kericho Shell petrol station for gas and to some air for the tires of my car. As one of the Shell attendants filled my tires, another person comes by and he queues to wait for his turn. We strike a conversation. He is a Meru, he is Richard – we didn’t have much time to get into careers and all but we are both heading to Nairobi from Kericho so we head out together. He tails me pretty close and I maintain my speed close to the 100km/hr mark.
He overtakes me after some half an hour. We tail a trailer for about 3 minutes or thereabouts and when the opportunity to overtake comes, we gladly take it. As customary, I indicate my intention to overtake and the matatu on my rear also jumps on my tail. I am sandwiched between the matatu and Richard’s car ahead. I overtake the trailer just to find another trailer already in front of it. The space in between them is small and cannot comfortably accommodate my car. Richard has already increased his speed and is already midway passing the next trailer.
Up ahead I see a canter approaching from the opposite direction. It has a moderate pace too but my window of overtaking is closing fast. The matatu is still hanging on my tail and flicking lights for me to pace up and give it room. I have no option but to speed up and overtake the second trailer before the canter closes in. I adjust my clutch to the S, which instantly gives life to my engine. The car engine raves as my back is suddenly pressed on the car seat as I accelerate and gather momentum. I get out of the situation in time as the matatu also zooms in behind me. That was silly and unnecessary. My speedometer is at 115kms/hr; I release the pedal and let the speed reduce without braking – I let Richard drive off. Phew!
After a few meanders, we come face to face with traffic cops and NTSA. Richard is about 150 meters ahead. I see the hands of the traffic cops go up in unison and Richard is ordered to stop. He parks next to the cop as another cop also flags me down too.
There are several cars parked all over and the NTSA van is also parked at a distance too. I lower my window and I ask if there is an issue. He scrutinizes his list, looks at my insurance and asks for my DL. We exchange pleasantries and he seems easy to talk to, a young guy. The moment he reads my name all that changes and he is all business.
“Umeshikwa juu ya speeding, weka gari upande ule”, he says as he proceeds to hunt for the rest.
“Hapana, kwani nime overspeed na ngapi?” I ask him trying to sound surprised.
He shows me a handwritten sheet with the details of my car at 115kms/hr. The less than a minute overtaking action has been made to sound like I have been over speeding for eternity. I don’t budge and don’t even leave the car. I insist we talk about it but he refuses so I park with the rest. I see another guy busy on a phone conversation, he is a luo. He has a Nissan full of women going to some church event of sorts. He had been stopped for driving at a speed of 87kms/hr. He is devastated. He tells me he has been pleading for the past half hour and they don’t want to listen. It’s too much effort with no potential benefit.
The NTSA guy sends another cop who rounds us up and tells us to tail his car to the police station. The cars are many, over 15 cars. I see Richard in a conversation with the same guy that refused to even give me a little talk time. I get into my car and before I drive off I see Richard running to the side of my car. He tells me the guy agreed to take 2k and has let him go. I tell him he has refused to talk to me about it despite my offer. I wish him a safe journey and tail the car to the police station.
It’s a long drive on a rough road but we eventually arrive at Molo Police Station. I ask the police that has brought us to the station what their plan is. He tells me we are being taken to court. He insists that we all give him our car key which is very uncharacteristic since he already took our DL’s but isorait. I give it to him. He says the car is now in their custody so they will be accountable if it’s stolen. Is he shitting me? Who steals cars in a police station?
We are out waiting, the church women do their prayers and singing in their van. It’s a luo choir. I realize we are just 8 out of the many cars that were flagged down. How, where are the rest of them? An hour later, three more cars join us and I realize we are also from the same ethnic community. Our numbers grow and one agitated driver asks in Kiswahili strongly laced with luo accent.
“Kwani hii barabara ni wajaluo tu ndiyo wana speed?” and proceeded to click. He is clearly annoyed and others join in. I am forced to moderate the group. I tell them to tone down otherwise they might even be shot for being rowdy.
The tension coupled with anger at the sight of unfairness in meting justice is palpable. When the cop that brought us to the station steps out, we rush to him and ask him where are the rest of the drivers that were over speeding? He pauses to think because he has no clear answer. He hesitates, stammers and walks back again to the office to think of an answer. He doesn’t come back to give us a response because it never occurred to him that we could figure out such a shopworn maneuver.
Half an hour later, a Kisii has been nabbed and brought to the station. He is in panic and makes frantic calls. After a conversation, he says he has been told he was over speeding. He is quickly called aside and they strike a conversation with the cop.
Another guy steps out of the office, he walks with a limp. He has a wad of papers. He tells us to follow him to court. The court is quite a distance, we pass through a few homesteads – a clear case of trespassing and then arrive at the court – it’s up on a hill. In our group, the Kisii guy is also missing, I am informed they let him off.
We find the judge finishing up with the previous cases and thereafter our cases begin. He proceeds to read out names of each driver and the corresponding charges. The accused steps forward and pleads and the sentence is passed depending on the plea of the accused.
The first guy of 87kms/hr – 5k fine, the second guy 112k/hr – 10k fine, the third and fourth and fifth are politically correct names and have all been given free bond, the sixth guy of 118km’hr – 10k so I am guessing I will be fined 10k too. Several other non-Western and Nyanza names are on free bond as per the documents in front of the judge and as a result the judge gets frustrated asks one of the cops while visibly disturbed.
“Nyinyi pia mmejipatia mamlaka ya kupeana bond?” The two cops just chuckle and dont give any response. He proceeds without even prodding further. It means the cops took bribes on those “free bonds” and sacrificed us for the courts as a smokescreen that they have dutifully done a good job.
When my case is read, the judge says I was doing 125kms/hr instead of 115km/hr. My throat dries up and saliva becomes scarce – that bastard screwed me up or someone did a shoddy job or the judge doesn’t visualize well. The judge asks me a second time, “how do you plead?”
What the hell does he mean how do I plead? I tell him I am guilty but not for that offence. The traffic guy is nowhere in sight to confirm. The judge proceeds to slap me with a 20k fine despite lack of proof or confirmation from my accuser. He refuses to listen, I find myself arguing with him and he motions one of the cops to silence me. I don’t think that guy is a judge by any standards – he has the look of a cartel beneficiary or surrogate. I am angry and don’t hide my disgust as I step out of that sham of a court room, I can’t bow to that idiot as much as one cop insists on it.
Angry and absorbed with own thoughts; a hand tags me on the side – a female cop. I stop momentarily and ask her where to pay the fine. She is quick to confirm to me that she heard the judge fine me 20k and I say yes.
“Uko na hiyo pesa?” she asks eagerly. I stop and look at her. Is she serious?These people think we are mobile ATM’s that chuck out money anytime.
“Sina hiyo pesa”, I say looking away without explaining myself.
“Uko na ngapi?” she asks. Does it really matter if the judge has passed his sentence? I give her the does-it-matter kind of expression and tell her maybe I can manage 10k.
“Fanya hivi, leta hiyo ili niongee na Chelang’at akupatie gari”. She says while rummaging through her phone for Chelang’ats number.
I tell her I only have 3k on mpesa and the remaining 7k are in my bag in the car. She doesn’t like it. She insists I was charged 20k, I need to add something on top and meanwhile she asks for the 3k and she escorts me to the nearest mpesa shop. I tell her to talk to the person holding my car keys and agree first. I ask her to describe the guy and she does – the limping guy!
And then, with the exquisite clarity that marks the most vivid, terrifying nightmares I realize these people may be all in it together. I might have been played!
Did they purposefully inflate my speed so that my fine is hiked for them to reap from the spoils?
“Enda tu kwake atakupatia na usiongee na mtu mwingine hapa”. I am like and who are you again?
“Wewe mwambie umeshaongea na Njeri”. She isn’t a young woman by any standards. She has short natural hair that is speckled with a lot of gray. No makeup and of course no attention to her looks. Her shoes are equally dusty and have borne some measure of neglect – uliza kiatu. She is too busy collecting bribes to even pay attention to her looks. I guess when money swings your way in random motions with ease nothing else matters because money is the only thing!
I rush back to the police station, I find Chelang’at alone in the office and he asks for the 7k. He gives me my car keys and I retrieve the money for him and just like that he hands me my DL the court sentence notwithstanding!
Instead of being glad, I retreat back to my car unable to just drive off. I sit and ponder about my proud heritage and the sudden fearful conviction that the happy life we once led may no longer be reclaimed – I mourn softly but my inward tears bring no release of sorrow, it laces it with anger.
That judge was just a smokescreen to hoodwink the public to pay out more without question based on the sham rulings. There is no justice and no fairness – to make it worse, ethnic profiling has also creeped in. We have no laws in Kenya, we have no legal institutions in Kenya but we have cartels – cartels are everywhere. A change of regime may interrupt the clandestine activities of these cartels. The beneficiaries of this organized crime will not let that happen. I now have my doubts about the Supreme Court.
Lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi was recently quoted in one of the Dailies saying, “Kenya is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Executive steals from the people; the Legislature steals from the people, the private sector bribes the public sector. The police, army, prisons steal from the people. So why then do we expect the Judiciary to be saintly in a land where the devil is the dominant force. After all, don’t we appoint our judges from the pool of corrupt lawyers with itchy fingers and fathomless appetite for greed and money?”