Kenya, Rants

Cops Get a Free Ride

I can’t think of any reason why a police officer in Kenya should get a free ride in a matatu (minibus use for public transport). As far as I know there’s no law that says, “If you see a cop walking, give him a ride.” It happens all the time, though: some cop walking on the side of the road flags down a matatu and the guy jumps in. For some reason every non-Kenyan person I complain to has the gut reaction to tell me that its because cops “serve the public.” Um, hello? Which Kenya do you live in?

Ugh. In the Kenya I live in cops don’t serve the public, they run death squads, beat matatu drivers for turning at the wrong place, and raid gay weddings. The Kenya police have been consistently rated among the most corrupt institutions in Kenya and even the most corrupt institution in East Africa. I’ve even been hassled by cops a number of times for doing things like not carrying a receipt for my laptop, not wearing a seatbelt, and talking to a friend on the street corner next to my house after dark.

I have almost no respect for Kenyan cops, but it wasn’t always like that — maybe I was just naive when I came to Kenya? My opinion of Kenyan police officers is a product of living in Kenya for three years. They misuse the law and invent new ones when the law isn’t in their favor (no, really. Don’t ask them to show you the law… haha). The cop doesn’t get a ride because, “Aww, the poor, good officer of the law shouldn’t have to walk,” he gets it because he will give you a hard time next time you pass his checkpoint if you don’t pick him up.

There seems to be little reason to be a “good” cop, though. The pay is shitty and I’ve heard the living situation is pitiful (living in tin shacks, sleeping on cots, no privacy when the wife comes to visit). I guess we can’t blame them for being corrupt, but still, why was he walking on the side of the road anyways? Isn’t there an official protocol for these kinds of things? You know, a cop car?

Karibu Kenya, hakuna matata! (welcome to Kenya, no problems!)

4 Comments

  1. Mom

    I think the cops everywhere are given certain special treatment. Donuts and coffee, free hot dog etc. . . And why not if they leave you alone? Not their fault the pay is bad and the living quarters are bad. All I know is it would not be wise to argue it with them.

    1. Alan Author

      I’m arguing on my blog so I don’t have to argue with the cops! The point is, it’s wrong and it pisses me off; whether it will change or not is another issue altogether. You see, the matatu is not in the business of being charitable, it’s in the business of making money. Besides, there are hundreds of people walking along the side of the highway who are also poor and live in muddy tin shacks but they don’t get a free ride. :)

  2. Well… give a person power to see what he is like!That’s what I say.
    But I believe cops all over the world, or almost all over the world are somehow corrupted..I dont like cops anyway..in Greece, where I live they really think they are very special, like the ‘chosen’ ones :P

    But really what did they told you because you were talking at night to a friend… sounds so funny…and weird

    1. Alan Author

      Maybe I was naive before I came to Kenya, but I never really looked at cops and thought “worthless” when I was in America. I just saw a bunch of cops hassling the bus drivers as I was coming to work, and “worthless” is exactly what I thought. I saw one investigating a driver’s papers very secretively, and I figured there was some money folded somewhere in the license. I didn’t dare peek as I walked by because who knows, it might be illegal to witness a cop taking a bribe!! haha

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