Close encounter with the Kenya Police
My journey to limp Mickey, the van, home for a long rest, was going smoothly. After the long slow climb from Isiolo to the junction, I stopped to cool and refill. Then the rest of the way to Nanyuki was as smooth as a journey in Kenya can be. I was feeling pretty good when I cruised into Nanyuki, booked a room and had one of the best fruit salads ever. Then off to collect the hand spun animals I had ordered a month ago. Almost there, I could see the sign on the right. Roadblock for police check. I was not waved through. The young police officer greeted me with a firm but courteous greeting and informed me that my tail lights were out. OOPS, now I knew there would be a problem. I politely stated I was not aware and would have them repaired immediately. He was not letting go. He would have to take me to the police station and book me. Now I knew it was going to cost money and time. I really didn’t want to part with either. Both of them were very important and very little.
I can’t give you “chai”, a bribe, I stated. He said “ I didn’t ask for one” I said “I know but it is very common in Kenya isn’t it. So I needed to say that up front” So he continues to tell me the process. To the police station, pay the fine, or impound the vehicle and go to court tomorrow. Neither of which was a positive option. I knew I had two ladies waiting for me at the weaver shop. I politely asked that before we did that could I go just over there to where that sign was for the curio shop. I was surprised but he said yes, at my age J he believed that would be where I would go and he will just hold my license until I return. Another surprise…. So off I went to do the business and have a bit of time to think this through and check the brake lights.
Now accepting that I was about to lose time and money, I relaxed into the situation and returned to the police officer after calling a friend to get the name of a mechanic who might be able to help. The officer approached, I expected him to get in and we go to the station but instead he repeated my options and started a conversation. I am so grateful for the peace that was in me when I needed it. I really have trouble remaining at peace when situations are going to cost money. There is very little money in the organization for administration or surprise encounters. But this time peace was there. I wanted this officer to know the work of our NGO and I wanted to know more about his work as a police officer. Meanwhile he saw me trying to get a mechanic to meet me at the police station to fix the lights. He went off to stop another vehicle and returned.
He asked me why I thought he wanted “chai”. I said “I know there are honest policemen in Kenya. But there are many who are not. So are you saying you are one of the honest ones?” His answer was one of the most honest I have ever heard. “Ok well sometimes I am not so honest, but…”
There is hope in Kenya. I truly enjoyed my close encounter with the Kenya police. I truly enjoyed getting to know this young man who has two young children and hopes one day to be an accountant. I am truly grateful for the peace I had that no matter what happened with time or money, God knew and was on the job. I didn’t get his name, but he is now implanted in my heart and will be in my thoughts and prayers.
By the way, he let me go and I had both taillights fixed.