Locked up!

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There is something peculiarly wrong with Kenyan cops, a constant itch and reprehensible disposition which mostly involves arresting even the most innocent person. The itch is only cured by making sporadic arrests on unsuspecting, innocent wananchi; like you can just be somewhere eating bananas and they pounce on you claiming that you are eating in preparation to commit a crime. They even package the evidence (banana peel) the same way the CSI chaps do it on Telly, and before you know it you are faced with two options; getting locked up or parting with some money.

In most instances, the latter happens because police cells are not the most affable of places to be in. Parting with some cash, as much as you may be surviving on less than a dollar a day is much better than spending a night in a cell.

A friend of mine, Mombasa’s very own conscious rapper Fikrah Teule got arrested recently for a few hours. Now, Fikra is the kind of chap who cannot even hurt a fly, he is cool like that. Am pretty certain he would comfortably let a mosquito suck him dry just coz he is super cool and non violent. I can picture him trying to bembeleza the cops telling them that he is just a rapper and that his eyes only see Mics and rhymes and not whatever it is they were accusing him of looking at.

fikrah teule-pic2

Fikrah Teule

The cops perhaps made him chuck one of his lovely boots because as a policy you cannot get into a cell with both shoes. I donno, maybe in their reasoning they think having one shoe reduces the chances of you escaping, ha! Sijui, but i think a man runs faster barefoot, the same way those old mamas who are in the ministry of Night Running fyatuka with no clothes and shoes on. Trust me, try running after a naked person (who even does this?) and you will never catch them. Not that I’ve ever tried but am pretty certain huwezi washika!

Fikra is a pretty lucky guy if this is the first time to be arrested. An ordinary Kenyan man is arrested at least thrice before the age of thirty. It’s never anything serious, just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time (for the cops) who seize the opportunity to get some extra chums.


Streets of Mombasa

And there is nothing as scary as having those cuffs on you; they make you feel like a bonafide convict. People even look at you like you committed homicide or some other terrible crime while in reality all you did was eat a banana while a broke cop was passing by, and since the odds were tipped against you, you got cuffed!

You get that disturbing feeling inside you that you just might end up spending years in jail being someone’s B coz you cannot afford a lawyer. Damn, for that moment you even picture your family coming to visit you in jail and your mum weeping coz your neck is as thin as a Flamingo’s. Your dad would be looking deep into your eyes trying to decipher just how hard prison had made you and you would be fighting back tears. For your troubles you would get a kick ass tattoo of a house fly on your neck. Story of your life!

Lakini who can blame them really, our cops are poorly paid!

But while all cops may be cut from the same cloth tailored in Kiganjo, not all of them turn out bad. We got some really good ones, like the famous one from the post election time who played Dr Phil asking people to stop the violence because at the end of it all we are Kenyans and we still need each other.

The environment too plays a part as to how a cop turns out. There is a very huge difference between  a cop in Mombasa and one in Nairobi. The latter poses a risk to Nairobians as much as they pose a risk to him; it’s a cat and mouse relationship between the Nairobian and the cop, each always trying to catch the other with their pants down.

At times, when the opportunity avails itself they collaborate and work together. Like cops can choose to turn a blind eye to a bunch of crooks from Calif wrecking havoc on Wananchi around Ngara area, especially Asians. They pass by with their dilapidated cruisers an hour later and claim to be acting on a tip off which may lead to the arrest, lakini wapi?

When the cops are let loose from Kiganjo and get posted here, we welcome them with horns filled with coconut beer as some short haired Giriama chicitas with dance for them the same way they used to dance for Baba Moi. This way, they become part of the lethargy and easy life of Mombasa  to a point they even adopt our parlance and Coastal names like Bakari and Hamisi especially if the aforementioned Giriama birds get affectionate with them.

Since cops in Mombasa are cool, it is people you should be afraid of. People who have drooping eyes. Dazed eyes which have to blink at you several times just to make sure you are not an alien. These guys reek; it’s like they have signed a contract to only take a bath once evry four years during elections.

They are the people you find dozing off by the roadside as if they are at the honeymoon suite in Swahili Beach. These are dangerous chaps. They can attack and stab you to death just for saying you have no money. Don’t be fooled by their lean frames, they have super powers motivated by the urge to shoot up some more drugs in to their already failing systems.

They have a name– Mateja, which by itself even strikes fear and work in manageable groupd of kedo like five guys hivi. They steal things like chicken (they don’t even run after the chicken, they pounce on them like grasshoppers and just like that you find yourself chicken-less), dustbins, boxers left out to dry, torn socks, and flower pots- all for the sake of getting a shot of whatever drug makes them tick!

My advice, when you see them eye you, whisper amongst themselves and head in your direction, take off. Take off if you know you are no Makmende or Tony Jaa, just take off!


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Abu Amirah

Abu-Amirah is a Mombasa-based writer whose story “The swahilification of Mutembei” was shortlisted for the Writivism 2016 short story prize. He is currently working on getting his first short-story anthology published.