NAIROBI: I have lived in this bubble where burglaries, muggings and such lowly crimes befall “others” and not me. I have never really encountered thugs, and only visited courtrooms in my capacity as a journalist, to see exactly what one looks like, and try to understand their psychotic instincts.
Well, my peaceful, guileless existence was shattered a few days after Easter, in my upcountry home when I woke up to an empty house cleared of all we valued. They had ingeniously unlocked the gate and broken our doors without making a sound. Immediately the woman of the house went down on her knees thanking Jehovah that the thugs saw it fit to take only our material possessions and the devil did not lead them into our bedrooms to slaughter us – our lives were intact.
Despite the misgivings the citizenry has with our Government, given its inability to protect us, I am an idealist who still believes the state has a duty to protect me since it eagerly makes deductions in form of tax from my monthly emolument. So I headed to the local police station to report the burglary. How wrong I was! At the station, I was welcomed by one Constable Kitum, a fat, lethargic man with coloured teeth. He sat enjoying the morning sun and totally oblivious of the many people who had also come to make complaints.
He was so relaxed that when I started narrating to him my ordeal, he responded with such apathy that sunk my heart.
“Ngoja Madam akuje apatie officer hio crime scene!” (wait for madam to come and assign an officer to that crime scene) He shouted at me nonchalantly.
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The so-called madam, who happens to be the Officer Commanding the Station (OCS), arrived at exactly 9:15 pm, two hours after I had reported the incident. She listened to me in a dazed silence before asking Kitum to take my statement and together with another officer, accompany me to “the scene”. And that is where drama started.
First, both policemen told me there was no police vehicle and so I needed to hire a taxi to take us to the scene. I was desperate and rushed to the local market and hired one for Sh500. I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have the money. When I rushed back in the vehicle, they both turned gloomy. “Na wewe unakuja haraka sana bwana ata hupei mtu wakati apumzike! (you are in such a hurry you can’t give us time to rest)” they said angrily. I didn’t bother with them.
They quietly hopped into the car. On reaching the market centre, trouble started again. “Hii asubuhi yote hatujakunywa chai bwana. Wacha tukunywe chai,” (It’s so early in the morning and we have not taken tea. Let’s first take tea) they said in unison. I was beginning to get angry. So I stood my ground and asked the driver not to stop. They were not very pleased.
Now the whole circus happened when we reached home. The fingerprints were still fresh but they did nothing to dust them. They walked around pretending to inspect the scene and mocking us that the house can be broken into and robbed while we slept and heard nothing.
To cut the story short, they did nothing. No recording of what was stolen, no investigation, nothing! They walked away with a vague promise of contacting us. We are yet to hear from them three weeks later.
My experience, no matter how small, has vanquished whatever hope I had in our security institutions. Our police are a demoralised, corrupt force that no amount of vetting or shoddy reforms will clean up. We might keep firing the whole cadre at the top and replacing it with retired generals but nothing will change.
The rot at the bottom, beginning with that constable, is so deep that we will need a miracle to clean it. These blue-uniformed chaps have no resources or motivation to do their job.
In fact, they hate their job so much and despise us citizens. After my experience, I was left wondering if the Government cannot protect me from a burglar, how on earth can it guarantee my security in the face of sophisticated terrorists?