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Are you willing to die for the change you really want?

By Julie Masiga | May 4th 2021
Julie Masiga.

I drive a black Subaru. It’s a pretty sweet ride, if I do say so myself. But I will admit that I don’t really do it justice. The speedometer rarely moves past 100km/hr, which means that other Subaru drivers (especially the ones who drive the blue Imprezzas) have zero respect for me. And I’m fine with that. If roads are highways to heaven, then I’d rather take my time.

This world may not be my home but I’m happy to live here for a few more decades. To put it differently, I’m not that ‘step on it’ chick.

If you jump into my passenger seat and shout, ‘follow that car!’ you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m the kind of gal who takes a whole day to drive from Nairobi to Kisumu. I know. Such a disgrace.

Anyway, this is why I was shocked when a cop flagged me down on Mbagathi Way claiming that I had made an illegal turn, cut into traffic, and then sped off down the hill towards the T-Mall roundabout.

It was about 4pm and I had spent the entire day with my seven-year-old; yeah, if you know, you know. So ‘afande’ flags me down, asks for my licence and starts talking about, ‘heh, madam! Nimeona vile umevuka barabara huko juu. Si unajua hio ni makosa?’

Now, I knew for sure that I hadn’t done any such thing. But I also knew that I couldn’t disagree with him. Unfortunately, I had lost all control of my good sense courtesy of my seven-year-old co-driver. Just as I was fixing my mouth to tell him that he could stick my licence in his boot and take a walk with it, my daughter tugged at the sleeve of my sweater, cupped her hand over my mouth, and whispered loudly, “Mama, are we going to jail?’ At which point we both turned to the officer, hopeful and wide-eyed, waiting to see if he would throw a mother and her child in a cell on a trumped up traffic offence. Long story short, he did not. He handed back the licence and moved on with an unconvincing, ‘usirudie tena!’ thrown over his shoulder.

I drove away from that incident thinking about how the situation could have escalated. Because there I was – tired and irritable – trying to humble myself in the face of government authority.

Remember, I hadn’t committed a crime. Were it not for my daughter, I would have been parked by the roadside for a while as the officer perambulated with my licence.

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I’d have probably ended up in traffic court paying a fine. Because that’s how the system works. The authorities in this country call all the shots. And really, you have one of two choices: accept or move on.

These kinds of encounters with the police can turn one’s mind to thoughts of revolution. In that moment, you feel like you could go out on the streets and picket from dawn to dusk. But then you have to sit back and ask yourself what that would really achieve, and what you’re willing to lose in the process.

Some of the revolutionaries that came before us lost their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today. So, in the end it comes down to two things: One, what does change look like for you, and two, are you willing to die for it.

‘Tafakari hayo’.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security editor, The Conversation  

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