This is the story of a man. A man who fell a couple of times and finally and hopefully rose to not fall again in the same pit. I bet some if not all motorosts on Kenyan roads have found themselves in situations where they have given bribes. Let me account for you my stories.
It’s a Sunday afternoon. I make plans to visit a friend and catch up. My friend lives near Roasters – for all those who know Thika Road. There is me , chalalalala 🙂 , driving towards Roasters from Roysambu. Before I make a right turn towards Roasters I decide to drive a few meters ahead a fuel the car. Car is fueled and I decide to join Thika Road. Here is where everything goes wrong. I make a right turn, or rather I made a wrong turn…hehehehehe anyway back to the story. Again for those who know Thika Road, it is illegal to make a right turn at that point. But, and I do say but with a capital B capital U and capital T, I had seen many cars make that turn, sooo to my knowledge that turn was valid. Little did I know, there were some cops dead infront of me. I was basically driving towards them. “Kichana, weka gari kando”, one of the police officers cried out. I had to do it. All those high speed chases I see on TV, none of that can work on Thika Road, so I rule them out there and then and I pull over, now facing the ‘proper’ direction of the road. The police officer who caught me enters my car and we now drive off towards the Kasarani Police Station.
At this point we now make weird conversation with the police officer. He asks me about where I work, where my parents work, where I live, where my parents live, my tribe. This guy!!! . I guess he was trying to gauge my social status, so that he could probably speculate as to how much he can get out of me. As we kept driving the police officer, would ask me, “Unataka tufanye aje?”. From my understanding this was his way of getting me to introduce the bribe talk. I beg him for forgiveness, but noooo, he would have none of it. He skillfully takes the conversation to going back to the station and writing a statement. We soon arrive at the police station, he takes the car keys and my drivers license and tells me to look for 10,000 KES, which he gave the impression would be the fine for my crime.
My mission at this point is to get KES 10000 pay the fine and visit my pal.
I call the friend I was headed to visit and I explain my predicament. He shares with me that his dad was a in a similar situation and that his dad paid a fine of approx 6000. “This is good, so all this will end in a few minutes as long as I have the money”, I tell my self but I didn’t have the 10,000 KES. I only had 4000. So I call a friend who lives in one the Kasarani Estates and she manages to borrow 6000 from her parents. We meet midway from her home and she hands me the money. I then head back to the police station.
After waiting outside a what seemed like a shared office, I get to talk with the police officer who caught me. He tells me that he will charge me with “Obstruction of traffic by driving on the wrong side of the road“. At the time, that charge looked very serious. It’s like I was placed in the same league as matatu drivers. And we all know how badly we talk of matatu drivers. When I was waiting to talk to the police officer, I got a sneak peak at the common cell where they held the arrested fellas. I knew I did not want to spend the night there. I had heard stories of people spending the night in police cells. Kenyan cells are not as pretty and clean as cells that I had seen on the TV screen. I was scared. Anyway back to the office. Other officers join in our conversation. A lady officers says, “You look like a nice young man, you don’t want to soil your record. You decide what you want”. I ask for forgiveness. I beg for it. But the officer wants to hear nothing of that. At this point I start realising that the money I had in my pocket was the bribe that the officer wanted. I realise that there is no evading the court room. Well there is one way. I could give the bribe. “Umeleta zile pesa?”, he asks. I lie, “Sijapata zote.” The guy fumes up and threatens to write up the charge in the books. I freeak out. I reach out to my pocket and remove the cash and place it on the table. No sooner had I done so than the police officer fumes once again and asks me, “Mbona unaweka pesa kwa meza, zishikilie hapo chini”. You can imagine the number of thoughts racing through my mind at the time. I hand him the money from beneath the table and soon after we walk outside towards where I had parked the car. The police officer hands me the car keys and my driver’s license. I drive off feeling as guilty as hell.
The shame I felt was great. I call up the friend who gave me the 6000 and start explaining the story. That the money was never really a fine but a bribe and that I had to my shame given a bribe.
I thought I was strong. I always imagined myself saying “No I will not give a bribe. I will never give a bribe” But here I am fallen. I felt so weak, so helpless, sooo alone at the time. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Could I ever rise above this struggle?”