Monday was here and did not look forward to it. Today would be the day I would go to court. All the way to Kibra Law Courts. So I called into work and informed my boss that I would not be able to go to work because of my unavoidable appointment with the judge. I must admit I was a bit ashamed about informing my workmates about my appointment with the judge, mostly because in our office I seemed to be the only dude who would have run-ins with cops. It always feels nice to have a clean slate so that I can proudly say, I have never been on the wrong side of the law. But this was not my testimony. My record was stained. I would officially have a criminal record against my name. Good job Vaneyck. Forgetting your licence was the best thing you have done this year. But as people say hindsight is always 20-20. When I look back, I am glad everything went as it went.
I call up a friend called George, the guy God always makes available when I have screwed up. I ask him whether he can accompany me to court and as always, he said yes. Of we go to Kibra Law Courts. Let me back up a bit so that you all can understand the providence of God in this matter. George once lived near Kibra when he was young. He lived there with his family for most of his childhood and so knew the place very well. I had never gone to Kibra before and God providing a friend who once lived around Kibra was amazing to me. George guides me as I drive to Kibra. We arrive early. We find the courts still closed. Like most government offices I have had the experience of interacting with, they hadn’t open the doors in time.
None of us has been to court before. We didn’t know which room to go to, who to talk to. We were clueless. We could see a few A4 papers stuck on the notice boards, describing which bank to pay fines and offence charges to. In my opinion the posters were not clear enough. I can’t remember what we decided to do, but as soon as the doors were opened we rushed to find our way into some room (which we still didn’t know of ) so that we would be first to served our plate of justice.
We sort the guidance of a few other notice boards. We were simply looking for the court room set aside for traffic offences. We eventually settled in one court room only to be moved to another because the judge wasn’t available. Of we went to our newly designated court room. There seemed to be this one guy who was trying to sort things out. This guy would mumble with a few other people. When the judge finally came in he chatted with her. From my observation he desired that the judge would start with the traffic offences. But the judge wanted otherwise. She wanted to start with the cases originally designated to her.
So George and I sat there and listened to the other cases. It was interesting to listen to the different disputes among people. Some of them could have been resolved if the participants had the heart to forgive. In some of the cases the plaintiff would forgive the defendant there and then in the court room.
I had heard from other people who had gone through the same situation that the best thing for me is to plead guilty. I would then be taken to a cell after receiving my sentence. This situation scared me to bits. I thought “I can’t go to the cell with my phone and wallet” For some reason I believed that I was getting into a really bad place where it is best to not take any valuables with you because you never know if you will get out with them. Because of this I handed George my phone, watch and wallet.
Finally, the judge started going through the traffic offences. I heard my name mentioned. I stood walked to the middle isle, did an almost-bow and took the stand. My charge was read. “Driving without a license… Do you plead guilty or innocent?”, they said . “What, I did that?” I asked to speak and said that the mentioned charge was not the charge that was listed on the slip handed to to me by the police at the time of my arrest. I hand the slip to the judge and after reading it she asks one of the officers to rewrite my charge.
The judge charged me KES 1000 or 6 months in prison 🙂 (I think… I can’t remember for sure). I am lead into a hallway that eventually led to the cell. To my surprise I saw many people in the cell, guys whose charges had been handled before my charge. Before I got into the cell another officer handed me the bail money I had paid , the whole KES 10,000. I got into the cell and got a spot where I stood. A few minutes later George came to a grill door that separated us from the free world. I needed to speak to him, but I wasn’t sure whether the officers would allow me to do so. I observed how my other inmates handled the situation. One could freely walk to the door and converse with whoever one wanted to talk to. From my observation you couldn’t do that all the time, but a few times seemed acceptable. I walk over to George and we exchange a few words. I can’t remember what exactly he said but I bet it was something like, “I will go and pay the fine and come back as soon as possible”.
Now all I had to do is wait. Wait for George to come back having paid the fine and get me out of this place. I was shocked to find out that I could have kept my phone while I was there. That is one of the things I regret not doing. A few times I had to borrow a phone from some of the other inmates so as to call George just to ask him how things are going at the bank. George had to go all the way to Prestige Plaza at a bank branch to pay up there. I thank God for this guy. I stayed in that communal cell for nearly 5 hours. The cell stank of urine. There were only a few seats and benches and most of them were hoarded by inmates who would not stand up even if their life depended on it. Most of us stood for the period we spent their. I saw a few moms with their infants in the same cell as me. I found that a bit disturbing. I got to chat with a few of the inmates, sharing what got us arrested. A few times I borrowed their phone whenever I needed to make calls. Guys were arrested for offences like not having one of the brake lights working to picking a phone call while driving.
As late afternoon approached, a couple of 19-22 years old boys were brought in. They had been arrested for possession of bhang (I can’t remember exactly what drug they were caught in possession of..bahng came to mind as In tried to remember). They started talking about how, if they don’t get someone to pay their fine, they will have to spend the night at Industrial Area. This made me freak out. I hadn’t told my parents that I was in court and now there is a chance I will spend the night in prison. I called George once again. He tells me that he has deposited the money at the bank but the financial system at Kibra Law Courts was down. There is also a chance that they system won’t be up and running by end of day. I remember George telling me, “Vaneyck, just pray”. I remember I wasn’t as freaked out as I thought I would be.
At approximately 4 pm, I see George on the grilled door again. I have never been happier. He had a paper slip that was my ticket to FREEDOM. He shows the slip to an officer and I am let out. I say my goodbyes to the inmates who helped with their phones.
We drive of to The Junction to watch a movie because we just needed to just relax after all we had been through. I tell George about all that transpired in the cell. We still make fun of how I did time for 5 hours.