A woman will tell a man about a leaking roof. The man will mumble something about getting round to have the roof fixed. She will remind him, every few days, then one day, he will tell her that she is nagging him.
That is what happened to us a couple of months ago. Our car developed a tiny crack on the windscreen, thanks to remaining immobile most of the year.
After many reminders to Hubby, and I being told to ‘relax’ about it, one day, we drove out of town to the village for several days. On our way back to Nairobi, we were stopped at a police roadblock. The officers asked for Hubby’s driving license. He gave them, but then made a casual comment. Side note. Do not attempt small talk with police officers if you are up country.
The ushago traffic officers get irked by small talk from villagers. Hubby being a typical Nairobian and not having gotten the memo about small talk with police officers in the village, said,
“I thought with Covid, you are not supposed to touch the DL.”
That was like lighting a match near highly flammable gas.
“Are you telling me how to do my job?” The officer asked, raising his voice to attract his colleague’s attention.
“This mang’aa has his windscreen broken. Did you knock down someone?” They insult you, back in the village, before they have even seen your face. And that folk is how we found ourselves in trouble with police officers in the middle of the only tarmacked road in a small village.
One of them pretended to be nice and called Hubby aside and asked him to cough up three thousand shillings. Hubby told him he had no such money.
“You are driving a big car and you have no money?” In the village, any car that is not a Probox or Nissan March is considered a big car, never mind that ours was a middle-aged saloon car.
Hubby stuck to his guns about not bribing and kept asking the officer to charge him as per law. The officer turned extra mean.
“Drive to the police station!” He escorted Hubby to the car, calling him a name and telling his colleague’s how this ‘mang’aa’ would soon behave.
“Songa backseat!” The officer shouted, yanking my door open so that I could move to the back seat as ordered.
“My wife is not moving to the back seat.” Now, that got the officer livid. At that moment, I thought he was going to shoot us dead, which would not be farfetched seeing as Kenyans have experienced police brutality. Later, one of them brought their car right next to ours and ordered us to follow them to the police station.
“I wish you had that windscreen fixed, as I kept telling you.” I told Hubby as we followed the police car to the police station.
“They would have found a reason to harass us, as long as I refuse to bribe them.”
At the police station, we went through an ordeal that I can only capture in a ten-chapter book. Seven hours later, Hubby was thrown in the cell. We had agreed that we would follow the law and not bribe them. They did not write any charge but refused to give a cash bond or whatever else they are meant to do as per law if one is driving a car with a small crack on the windscreen.
“You have threatened us since we came here, harassed us, just because you can. But if you touch any of us, you better be ready to deal with the consequences.”
“Are you threatening an officer of the law? Eh!”
Which is how Hubby got shoved into the cell.
We had agreed not to make any phone calls up to this point, but when he was thrown in the cell and they continued harassing me, I walked away and sat by a rock in their car junk yard. I made a call.
Within minutes, every officer was looking for me. One spotted me and came running, extending his phone to me.
“It’s the OCS.” He had supposedly been unreachable but now, on the phone, he sounded as meek as a monk.
“Madam, this is a small issue… who did you call?”
“I just called family. And they made their phone calls.”
“It is a small issue madam…”
“It cannot be small when my husband is in the cell, with no charge sheet and you are all threatening us, seven hours later, for a cracked wind screen.”
“Please, remove that placard at the reception about justice. You do not understand what justice entails.”
“Madam, I can lose my job just like that…”
“Follow the law and treat civilians right.”
While I greatly honour our security officers, on this day, I learnt that Kenyans, especially in the village are grossly harassed and highly intimated by the men in cobalt blue uniforms.
As our law makers are busy politicking, the poor voter lives in fear of the officers meant to uphold the law and apprehend the law breakers. Can husbands at least heed our constant reminders and - hopefully - stay out of trouble with the cops?
Karimi is a wife who believes in marriage. [email protected]