Monday, February 5, 2007

police harassment and youth resistance

Having spent a couple of months in Australia it was a rude shock to see the manner and nature of police conduct in Nairobi during our two week visit. To say they were rude would be an understatement, or even to suggest that they were in efficient would be to give them undeserving credit. The police that night violated our rights and those of other Kenyans who were arrested for being outside at night after 11.00pm, whaterver the pretext, since Nairobi is not under curfew (but it would appear that police patroling in slum areas make it appear so).

Thus as we were having drinks dances and talks our party was interrupted by more than 20 police men did not see any policeowman, brandishing their guns at us and ordering us out to a waiting lorry. Its amazing how arbitrary the police conduct their operations, all tourists were allowed to stay while all the Kenyans were to be arrested. Now thats funny since I was a Kenyan at that momment but also a tourist since I was only visiting for two weeks, but that aside, the police did not seem eager to engage in conversation since we had tried to ask them what they were arresting us for to without any success. So at that point the most important thing was to get ourselves to the police station with the hope that we could have an audince with the officer commanding the police post, experince has showed me that the OCS tends to be more reasonable and less likely to physically assult people unlike the jnr officers who seem to derive pleasure for inflicting pain on others.

In the police car I heard one ridiculous incident that would have made us all laugh but we knew too well that the police could turn that statement in the morning. There was a mother of a 6 year old girl who had been arrested on her way to the shop to get salt and flour to finish cooking her dinner. Her main worry was that her house would probably catch fire or that something could happen to her daughter, she even showed me the things she had just bought.... it was so sad.

Well we finally arrived in the police station and got booked in with drunk and being disorderly, now for the records I do not even drink alchohol so does Njeru or Paul, but that did not matter. The biggest issue at that momment is that we were about to be placed in the same cell with other convicts and we had already witnessed them brutilizing other inmantes, se we hatched a plan to go in a single file and fight if we had to to defend ourselves, our situation was further complicated by the fact that we were in the company of a tourist. So when the door was opened we came in charging and blazing, and paralyzed the system, the bully inmates realized quickly that we were from Koch and that cooled down things abit and after consultations we were allowed to go into the VIP without the ritual of harassment or having to pay the inmates. The ritual consisted of washing the toilet and giving any valuable that one had and finally sleeping in the corridors where people were practically pillled on each other. We got into the VIP and I was seated next to the big bully inmate who alleged that he was in for robbery but since they could not get sufficient evidence to charge him they kept him in the cells(now in the cell there is a tendency for people to make their cases seem more serious than they are, or lessen them, I do not know which he was doing but he had been there quite a number of times and for the past 4months). He seemed to know people from Koch which was good. Once peace was established we settled into the sleepless night which was punctuated with either the police beating people outside the cell or the inmates beating people and bullying them once they got inside.

It was such a waste of time because the next morning part of the group was sent to court and actually charged with being drunk and disorderly and the magistrate finding them giulty based on their plea, others were forced to clean the police compound and the tourists including me were released without even a charge or an explanation. Now am sure one would wonder why the people in court pleaded giulty or why we did not press charges for harrassment and wrongfull arrest. The point is that at achieving human rights is a process and at times you are faced with the dilema of escaping or staying and fighting. If the people in court had denied the charges they would have been remanded for 14days or fined 5000 Kenya Shillings and the case would have taken atleast more than 6months and they would have to appear incourt every 14day.Now thats so much time to demand from activists. while agreeing to being giulty attracted a 1day community service or a fine of 200Kenya shillings...Well its easy to see whats the easiest options.

For us being in the country for two weeks it would have been difficult to institute the charges.. since they would have expected us or our lawyers to be present at the times of the hearings. The best we did is that our collegues reported the violations to the British and Australian embassy, whatever the outcome , we have informed and we shall c arry the story wherever we go to..

Well we left the police station with a sad tatste.


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