Caught!

So I am driving on Valley Road down towards town. As always I ignore the traffic lights in front of the Panafric Hotel. They never change from red to green and no one ever stops at them. Ever.

But just as I cross the road I see about a group of policemen waving at me.

I stop at the side of the road and open the window. ‘Can I see your driver’s license?’ says the policeman. Then, we he has it in his hand, ‘Bwana, why are you driving against red? Do you not have traffic lights in your country?’

‘Yes, but the traffic lights here never work. No one ever stops at them!’

‘They work fine. There was a bad accident here on Friday. That’s why we are here.’

Very bad swearwords appear in my mind and I try to continue arguing but it’s pointless. The policeman tells Laura to get into the back and gets into the passenger seat next to me to tell me that I will have to go to the police station and pay a 5000ksh bond pending a court appearance tomorrow.

‘What if I buy you some lunch I say’ but he shakes his head and says it’s impossible, talks about the accident the other day and says that his boss saw what happened. ‘What? An unbribable Kenyan policeman?’ I think to myself. ‘Weird’.

I tell him that I don’t have 5000 shillings and he says that in that case he will have to arrest me and that I will have to spend the time until my court appearance in jail. I tell him fine, I will just have to go to a cash point and out the money. So we drive to Hurlingham and I take out the money.

At this point he starts saying that maybe he can talk to his boss, he doesn’t really want to inconvenience me with a court appearance, especially since I have to go to work tomorrow etc. He tells me that if I go to court the fine will be around 10,000. He says that he will be able to speak to his boss and explain the fact that I am really apologetic, I’m a really nice person etc.

Luckily I have heard all the stories around and know that the fine is not that hight and that now it’s just a question of how much I will have to pay to be let off.

‘He picks up his phone and makes a fake phonecall to his ‘boss’. In English. With no pauses. The acting is quite good. But not that good. Laura and I look at each other and smile.

‘The boss says that he is willing to forgive you for 3000’ he says.

‘3000?’ I say ‘Bwana, you know just as well as I that the fine is not that high. It’s about 1000. I’m happy to go to court in that case. Shall we go to the police station?’ This throws him a bit and I suggest that 500 is sufficient. He says that it is for him, but not for his boss. So I tell him that it’s much better if we go speak to his boss then.

We drive back to the spot where he first caught me and stop on the side of the road.

‘Give me 1000 and it’s fine’, he says. Fine I say and he takes it and goes out the car. The boss never appears.

Phew!

This is the second time I’ve had to bribe myself out of a situation with the Kenyan police.

Last week a report was published saying that there was only 3 cases of reported corruption in the police during 2007. The best record of all Kenyan authorities.

No wonder. It’s so common no one ever reports it.

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