Locked Up

At the Police Station

If I had left one minute earlier, or one minute later, if I had walked to the stage instead of taking a boda boda, if I had skipped breakfast, or taken breakfast in mess, if I had made my bed….if I had done any of these things, I might not have taken matatu number KXX XXXX( am not protecting the identity of the matatu; I can barely remember its colour except the yellow line in the middle)… and if I hadn’t taken matatu number KXX XXXX, we might not have been stopped by cops and I wouldn’t be having a criminal record as we speak.

Okay, it’s not as serious as it sounds but I have a green slip that can show I was fined Kshs. 500 for a minor traffic offense of not tying a seatbelt for my own safety. Criminal case no. TR something something. I won’t state it. Just in case it’s illegal.

Friday morning, when the cops pulled us over, I thought it would be the usual harassing of the driver and conductor, after which the conductor would discreetly hand over a bribe; then we would drive off amid indulgent smiles from the passengers. Or perhaps there would be no bribe because the matatu seemed in good condition and there were no extra passengers. Instead, the cops entered the mat, looked around, and told us we had all been arrested for not wearing the seatbelts. Not even the driver had buckled up.

It was futile protesting; we were caught red-handed. As much as it may promote corruption, on-the-spot fines should really be introduced, because we ended up spending the whole day in the pursuit of justice. Not exactly, but it sounds nice to say, “in the pursuit of justice”.

We were first driven to the police station at Kasarani, and that was when it hit me that I had been arrested. I excitedly tweeted (follow me on twitter already). Really, really arrested. I thought we would pay our fines (or bribes) at the police station and be done with it. We were led into this room behind bars (confirm with photo above); and I realized I may have to call someone to bail me out. I called my mum. She was really understanding and promised to be there soon. I tweeted this. ( I really am addicted. To twitter.) The cops took our names, called us out one by one, put us in another matatu; ironically overloaded and without seatbelts, and drove us to the high court.

The High Court. For my first crime! (Not that there will be more to come…). Before you can be arraigned in court, you are first put in these cells. Real cells, leave alone that big airy room at the police station. The Nairobi Law Courts building has these basement cells, they looked so desolate and had this permanent smell of urine and disinfectant. There were solitary cells (you just see someone desolately curled up at the corner), crowded cells, overcrowded cells, empty cells with red lines in the middle, cells with a lone guy staring blankly through the bars (what are you in for, murder? He didn’t answer my telepathic question.) they have this common feature: all seemed dark and airless.

By the time I was realizing I should have taken a pic, the cops were trying to put us into order (we were like 200 traffic offenders) and this fat, obnoxious cop took my phone and switched it off. He had alcohol breath (never have I hated alcohol breath this much; this guy spitting as he spoke in your face!) yet it was around 10 am. We were then put in this cell, where I spent the better part of the morning amidst other criminals.
The cell wasn’t so bad. It was dark like all the rest, but the women were friendly, some had complicated cases like fraud, others had been in for days and were dying for a shower, and all I was worried about was my phone so I could tweet away the anxiety (if your case is not heard on a Friday, you have to spend the entire weekend in custody till Monday.) or call my mum.

An office at one of the basement cells...

Eventually, the cop gave me back my phone after a long(ish) emotional struggle with him. I told him I could give him money once I got out; equivalent to the phone even, while he kept said he’s fat enough already, he doesn’t need any money. He kept going from cell A to cell B, talking to inmates, opening and locking the cells, calling out those who were due in court etc. at one time, he called out, “Onyancha? Onyancha..” I shuddered. I thought, Onyancha here with us? Turns out it was a sick joke.

We were finally called out, and my, wasn’t I glad to leave the dingy cell. To the airy Traffic Court on the second floor. My mum had found a relative who works at the law courts and was hanging out there while we waited to be read our charges. It was my first time in a court too…there was a case ongoing involving ATM Card theft. It sounded almost John Grisham like. Questions like, “did you see the accused or not?” “Answer the question. Yes, or no.” “Mr X, on the morning of 24th November, 2008. You went to the ATM at M Building, 24th Street, Nairobi and withdrew Kshs. 8, 243.76 cents. True?” WFT? Like you can remember how much you withdrew two years ago.

We spent two agonizing hours being read our various charges, paying our fines and by the time I was walking out of the courtroom, I was ready to take 10 showers and 5 dinners.

Buckle up next time. Alternatively, know someone big in the police ranks and you’ll be let go at the police station. These traffic rules are in effect and guys are arrested randomly. The fine for being an extra passenger is Kshs. 2000, plus of course Kshs. 500 for not wearing a seatbelt. The fine for alighting/boarding at an undesignated stage is Kshs. 10, 000. Yeah, believe it, because Mama’s brother was fined that much.

P.S. I agonized over the title of this post… “Savvy’s First Arrest, In Court, Savvy Goes to Jail, Jailbird, Convict etc” so I asked Wamathai and he suggested locked up.


22 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Savvy Kenya, Savvy Kenya. Savvy Kenya said: Tweeps, no panic. I was working on the arrest blog post…needed to upload some pics http://savvy.sikika.co.ke/?p=610 […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP ( and so is spam.

  2. Pole sana, did they check each and every person to establish whether indeed guys werent wearing safety belts? Along jogoo rd, a pal of mine found herself at the police station, apparently the Double M had been driven to the police station and they were told they’d be charged for not wearing a safety belt. Funny thing is no one was checked. On the spot fines should be introduced soonest.

    Yeah, they looked around first before arresting all of us. They told us you could exonerate yourself if you could prove you had tied the seatbelt. Funny thing is, the seatbelts were clean and working correctly.

  3. Best post ever, sorry for the experience hun…. Buh waaaaarrrrr I’ve laughed, the onyancha scare Hahaha th best!! 😀

    At least I got over it….that’s the best part.

  4. pole I only belt up when at the front anyway IMHO I think that’s the only place they can help you. they’re usually too dirty to belt up!

    yeah, they may be too dirty, but if you see cops approaching, do something…even if it’s draping the dirty belt across your lap!

  5. Am torn between laughing and sympathizing …. settling for both! What an adventure…

    At least it was over; a real adventure, I guess.

  6. the onyancha part…nice joke. sounds like fun when you recap it.

    it was quite an experience…looking back, I can say that am reformed now. I can start giving motivational talks and all.

  7. Did you sing Locked up by Akon? How clean were the cells? No one tried to molest you?:-D

  8. So sorry but I can’t help but laugh out aloud coz seriously Savvy, even when you are talking about serious stuff it ends up funny but….no seriously….pole and now will you be belting up:)?

  9. Oh God!

    It was like watching a movie…something akin to akina Law n Order o sth! Hehe! LAkini gosh! Enyewe we need to follow these darn rules. Like every time I cross the road I fear ntashikwa so am always on the look-out…maybe if they come I can ‘kainua!’!

    Anyhoo.pole for the incident and thanks for makin my day! Waah!

  10. very sorry about that & thanks for or waring the rest of us. these cop crackdowns are start/stop exercises that last a few weeks

  11. you’ve never been in court?! at attacho there were like a million traffic cases in municipal court each morning. they are really boring. that atm case was probably in municipal court too. trust me that’s nothing like john grisham… you need to be at the other courts… ati mara sijui the chief bit whose ear (more like stephen king)

    it was traffic court…but am sure there is enough drama in our courts, someone should compile the cases and give Stephen King a run for his money!

  12. Pole Savvy. I’ve never seen the inside of a police station let alone a cell but I hear you on the 10 showers.

    I never thought I’d get arrested in my life either!

  13. Pole sana @savvykenya. Quite an experience though

    I lived to tell the tale!

  14. I was there once and that has to be one of my worst days ever coz i almost got fired and we lost a client coz i was detained for the better part of the day and the fine turned out to be just 200 bob. I also think that they should introduce a way of paying fines without having o go to court if you plead guilty to your alleged crime.

    They should have on-the-spot fines…

    Thanks for the mention 🙂

  15. hehehehehe. Ndio hukukam class on that day?? Pole

    Yeah, that’s why. At least that is behind me now!

  16. Wow! This must have been in the ’30 Things to Do Before You Turn 30!’ What a great experience.

    But take heart. Traffic offenses don’t count on the all important question: Do you have a criminal record?

    Yeah, I noticed they didn’t even ask for our ID numbers, or take fingerprints. But it counts that I’ve been there, done that.

  17. Your mom’s phone no. please she seems to be an angel, next time am in trouble,my mom would say you got yourself in trouble get yourself out,mean huh!

    If you are in real trouble, am so sure she’ll bail you out no matter what she says now. Trust me!

  18. […] P.S. I know it wasn’t on the list but I got arrested. […]

  19. Hehe, reminds me of a friend who was singing *Blue Uniform – SautiSol all the way to the police station. Atleast in his head, pole sanar.

    ” Onyancha??..” That cop must have been having a field- day with y’ all scared females.

    I’m over it now but it was some kind of nasty adventure

  20. […] it wasn’t as dramatic as am making it sound, but considering I’ve been arrested once (here is the story, but you won’t find an official record, that’s for sure) and as the cop […]

  21. […] Someone said Akenyangirl and I look somehow alike … so now I have a tweet-sister! Not to be confused with twin sister .. she offered me help when I got arrested. Yeah, I’ve been arrested before! […]

  22. All Kenyan Graduates find internships @ http://www.attacho.com

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