I had a little run-in with the police the other day while riding a matatu (public transport minivan) to Nairobi. Police checkpoints are really common here, and it’s not unusual for a matatu to get stopped twice in the one hour ride from Tala to Nairobi. The routine is as follows: officers pull seemingly random matatus over and, while “checking” the driver’s license and various aspects of the vehicle, pocket the money folded into the license. They’re good at it and it’s no secret.
As one officer was chatting with the driver another one pointed at me in the front seat. He had seen that I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, a crime in Kenya. He began to scold me, “You need to wear your seat belt.” I know I shouldn’t have, but I pointed to the guy next to me and said, “Neither is he.” Ignoring my comment, the officer continued to patronize me, “You have already violated the law. It’s not for my safety, it’s for yours. I am just warning you.” As matter-of-fact and helpful as it sounds, he was actually giggling; I could see he thought I was a clueless tourist. So I buckled up and off he went, grinning ear to ear and laughing with his buddies.