The irony of crimes and their punishments in Kenya

The Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi as pictured on April 1, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • It is a crime to steal but it matters what you steal. If you steal a chicken to feed your family, in all likelihood, you will get a couple of years in jail, or a hefty fine, which you probably can’t afford.
  • It is not a crime, however, to steal public funds, because, even if they track you down and list you in the paper, the most that will happen is a much publicised court case.                     

Crimes in this country are varied and sometimes unclear.

For example, it is a crime to steal but it matters what you steal. If you steal a chicken to feed your family, in all likelihood, you will get a couple of years in jail, or a hefty fine, which you probably can’t afford – because if you were stealing chicken to feed your family, then you definitely won’t be able to pay a fine for stealing the chicken that is more than the price of the chicken. Which it definitely is.

It is not a crime, however, to steal public funds, because, even if they track you down and list you in the paper, like the allegations against Anne Waiguru, for example, or the funds missing from the National Covid-19 fund for example, or the (insert literally any scandal here), the most that will happen is a much publicised court case after which you, the (now very rich) thief, will go home after, post playing Solitaire on your phone in full view of everyone who bothered to attend any mockery of proceedings. Either that, or you’ll be put up in a plush jail, which will be like wealthy house arrest, and then after you get out, you can run for president or open a church.

Speaking of a national Covid fund, it is illegal to be out in public without a mask (even if the government who said that these are compulsory are not providing folk with masks, and therefore it would appear that they don’t really care who dies. I say this because after all the literal billions of shillings we’ve gotten from World Bank et al specifically for Covid, you would think that we were spending more on people than daily press conferences and non-existent tests, but alas. See also: stealing a chicken in paragraph one). It is also illegal to be out past the 9 pm curfew. This is an offense punishable by death.

Ok, it is punishable by death, if you are poor. He, if you are poor in this country, you are dead. In case you didn’t know it, this is another varied and unclear crime in this country (see also: paragraph one).  If you are one of the watus, it’s over, and so is your life. If you can’t afford to grease the palm of the police who catch you, they’re throwing you in, manhandling you, and you will be lucky to leave alive. If you’re not driving a nice big shiny car, but you’re walking on the street, they’ll probably break your legs.

And oh, if you’re not Johnson Sakaja – well, you might as well roll over and die now. If you can’t take to Twitter and claim you did nothing – right after media announces that you were busted – because you are one of the millions of Kenyans not represented on KOT – then you are worthless to all deemed justice in this your own country.

If you, like Sakaja, earn about Sh1.4 million a month (plus luxury loan allowances and all that jazz), then you’re very lucky that you (and your chosen few) will pay a fine that is only  0.0107 per cent of your monthly salary (which is what you get when you divide his fine, Sh15,000, by Sh1.4 million).

Then you’ll resign from some silly board for how and expect Kenyans to accept and forget. Which we might. Because we’re honestly here trying to survive your Senate’s incompetence and global pandemic.

This country will beat you to death for the brokeness they create – and don’t you forget it. Stay in your house that you can’t pay rent for until they do the scheduled government evictions. These are your only choices. This is your senator.