Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lawyers, police, and criminals… oh my! (or nice guys, corrupt ineptitude, and smug success, oh my!)

(Written Wednesday April 25, 13:10 Kenya time – regarding earlier today)

There's an irony in this story in that over a conversation between Carol and the head of the Criminal Investigations Dept. for the regional Police, in which even through my stuffed up nose I couldn't help but smell the corruption, a calendar hung above the officers head protesting sexual harassment in the workplace, provided by none other than the Kenyan Anti Corruption Commission.

Allow me to paint a picture.

Still in Nakuru, we met for breakfast at 7am before our (ok their, I'm just tagging along of course) 8am appointment at the police station with the aforementioned head of the CID. At 8:00 we walked a few blocks through the morning rain and muddy streets, trudging past street vendors reluctantly setting up shop in the rain, people walking, bicycling and driving to work, school, or other morning business, and the stares I'm getting accustomed to of being one of the very few white people in this part of the world.

We arrived at the police station, where I immediately had to grab a photo of this sticker on the wall, which was immediately followed by getting harassed by the police for taking pictures in their station. I showed them the picture, promised not to take any more without asking, and was left alone. We waited probably 30 minutes for our appointment to show up, and finally he did. While we waited I observed that nearly everyone, even the janitors, wore suit jackets of some sort. Most were far too large for the people wearing them, further highlighted by the fact that most of the workers were incredibly skinny. Apparently it's quite important for the Kenyan people to dress their best, and they want to be quite formal. It was only at this observation that I asked about my casual dress (shorts and a t-shirt), and the first time that Carol thought it could be a problem. She asked her lawyer and was assured it wouldn't be, so I followed them in to their meeting.

The officers room is quite small, painted with a pastel-ish blue and green, with a few posters and calendars on the wall (see opening paragraph) and crooked photos of the chief of police and some high ranking military official. His desk appeared to be makeshift, but was covered with a red tablecloth. The chairs were old worn dark red velvet, and the floor a parquet hardwood that probably at one time was gorgeous. Unfortunately now the varnish is long gone, and as it is wet mopped every morning (as it was being when we entered), the water soaking into the wood has been less than kind to it. The officer sat behind his desk, and six of us sat on the other side. Carol, her lawyer, the chief of the Pokot tribe, two other Pokot who've been traveling with us, and myself, whitey, who was met with disapproving glances and an immediate request to explain my presence. Carol quickly explained I was a volunteer for the IHF and was only there as I had no where else to go, and would certainly take no pictures. I decided against asking him to smile for the birdy.

The purpose of this visit was to check on the status of the pending arrest of two individuals who the IHF have charged with stealing $70,000 USD from their bank account. Unfortunately the cops have failed miserably at apprehending the suspect, even though they've had two years and been told exactly where to find him repeatedly. The officer went on to explain one stake-out that lasted until 4am, and how just yesterday and the day before they planned on going to arrest him, but their cars were broken down so they couldn't. But they'd probably get to it today. After much arguing and headshaking on Carols part, it became clear that each of the three times Carol has flown to Kenya to meet with them, they were "just about to" go get the guy. But they never do. It became further clear that they really don't want to. The problem now, besides the obvious, is that the trial is set for May 3rd. If they go to trial and the suspect isn't there, the case will be dismissed. And according to Kenyan law, at that point, the suspect can sue the plaintiff for harassment! Fabulous system. So they arranged another meeting a week from now, and Carol has promised to sue not only the Kenyan police but the Kenyan government as well over this embarrassment and obvious lack of interest in her case. What really hurts her is that she came to this country to help; helps thousands of people, and yet is thanked like this by its government.

We left the station in a cold drizzle, a fitting end to the meeting.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note that the penalty for ANY citizen possessing ANY firearm in Kenya is often execution. Several poor farmers who only own an old bolt-action Enfield for hunting and pest control have been dragged out of their homes and shot. The current Kenyan government "firearm registration" program has been used for confiscation of firearms and execution of their owners.

Joseph said...

No kidding? I didn't hear anything about that. Very interesting. What I did hear about though were government raids on villages where they would take all their firearms… then immediately after another rival tribe would move in and steal their cattle and goats. With no guns to defend themselves, they'd end up with nothing in a matter of days. Which usually means death in the desert.