By Njoroge Kinuthia
Askaris turn council vans into dens of corruption
In the past one year, I have been sifting through and publishing loads of your complaint letters on this forum. Today, however, allow me to also huff and puff.
Last week on Friday, I was on Kirinyaga Road with my mechanic, Oliver Odongo, shopping for spare parts for my jalopy when someone suddenly grabbed me by the scruff of my neck.
The burly bully in a checked shirt swiftly prodded me with what looked like a grease gun and smeared my arm with its black contents. "Donât you know how to walk?" he asked. I informed him that was none of his business. He asked whether I knew who he was. I retorted that I had no such interest and that the much I knew about him was that he was short of decorum.
Another man, standing by, urged me to forgive him. I decided to move on. But hardly three steps away, came the familiar neck grip again. Helpless like a toddler in an adultâs hands, I was quickly frogmarched to a nearby city council pick-up (KAT 537X) and hurled in âWaititu styleâ.
Inside, I found about ten other âcustomersâ and a police officer who was seated close to the door. I explained to him the injustice that had befallen me but he only stared at me with overt disinterest. "Sio mimi nimekushika. Wewe ni hawker," he replied curtly. Another man close to me was running out of breathe trying to exonerate himself. The policeman cut him short: "Ukiingia hapa wewe ni hawker".
I called a colleague and explained to him my tribulations. I also called Gitahi Kanyeki, Administration Policeâs acting director, Complaints Directorate. Mr Kanyeki told me to hand my phone to the police officer in the van. The officerâs response was brief and clear. "Mwambiye siongei na yeye."
Kanyeki then gave me what he thought was sound advice: "Take this as a learning opportunity. Just go the whole hog and see for yourself how much suffering Kenyans go through."
The vans, they were two following each other closely, continued with their odyssey and the ununiformed askaris running by their side brought aboard more âcustomersâ.
At one point, I heard an askari scream, "jatelo, ingia ndani! jatelo, nasema ingia ndani!" I turned to see who the new âhawkerâ was. It was my mechanic. Apparently, Odongo had committed the unthinkable crime of coming close to the van seeking to speak to me, a prisoner. The vehicle never got full. Whenever a new group was brought in, almost a similar number stepped out to freedom. Freedom cost money â Sh500 to be precise. Pay the policeman at the door or numerous askaris hovering on windows and â voila, freedom!
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