He wanted to talk life, and I thought okay, why not?
He asked many questions as he led me to a quiet, outdoor cafe. There he told me his story.
He, a Rwandan who’d trekked across mountains to escape the tribal massacres, was on a Kenyan transit visa and needed to get to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he’d an uncle at the university who could help him.
He asked me for money – $40 – so he could continue his journey, and I was replying no, sorry, when two men approached our table.
One guy in a suit; the other dressed casual.
They flashed ID – SECURITY / POLICE !!!
Fake police scam … or ?
The bulky, casually-dressed dude took the Christian away as the other smaller, suited guy declared that the guy had been arrested.
That he was a wanted terrorist!
I thought this some kinda bad joke. And scoffed.
The officer got shitty. He demanded to see my passport.
I told him it was back at the hotel.
He started asking questions: What was our business? What had we talked about? How did I know this man?
He got aggressive; threatening me to take this situation seriously, to cooperate.
The big man returned.
Apparently, they said they’d been watching us with binoculars from that tall circular tower – Nairobi’s landmark.
The small, shrewd copper told me of the marijuana penalties.
I replied, I didn’t smoke.
“Not even cigarettes?!” demanded the other.
They inspected my hands. No stains.
I couldn’t fathom whether they were convincing con men or corrupt cops.
And, was that “Christian” part of it?
They told me to stop lying, threatening – “Do you want to talk here or at the station.”
I replied “Here”; knowing that if these guys were cops it’d be very difficult and expensive getting released from a station, especially if they began the paperwork.
I continued being polite, patient but firm. Maybe I can get rid of them with a small bribe?
They insisted I show my traveller’s cheques, to compare mine with the suspects. If they didn’t match, then I was clear.
I didn’t trust them.
And was reluctant to reveal my hidden money belt (luckily, I’d left my visible money belt with my passport back in the hotel).
I didn’t budge.
I was to be charged. They asked how I felt about spending time in a cell. As they escorted me across the park another man appeared.
I went through my story again. He too demanded to see my traveller’s cheques.
A car was now waiting.
I knew if I got in the car – or was forced, I was in for some serious trouble whether these guys were cops or con men.
I then decided to show them my stash, and with their permission I walked alittle way off and out of their view I pulled a $20 cheque from my hidden moneybelt.
I reckoned I could handle losing 20 bucks.
I showed them the Amex cheque, a distinctively Australasian issue because it had – Westpac Bank – printed across it in red. This I pointed out: that the suspect couldn’t possibly have the same issue.
It stumped them.
They wanted a couple of bucks – for beer, then said I was free to go.
During that hour I remained uncertain of their real identity. It seemed likely they were con men.
…Just a fake police scam.
Yet, as corrupt cops they fitted that stereotype typical of Hollywood movies depicting the Developing World.
Either possibility seemed plausible.
Stories of Corrupt Cops in Kenya
Postscript: A clipping from a Kenyan newspaper.
The Daily Nation: Letters to the Editor:
POLICE MARRED HAPPY TOUR
“I and a fellow Kenyan recently toured Tanzania for five days … as might be expected, we bought a few things, including three t-shirts, five cloth materials, a food mixer and a souvenir.
We set off for Nairobi … our luggage and papers were checked at the border and okayed by immigration officials. We then boarded a matatu (taxi-van) for Nairobi.
We got to a road block in Kajiado and were asked to open our bags – only my friend and I.
The police found in our bags the items earlier mentioned and asked us to produce “permits” for them, which, of course, we did not have.
They asked the driver to leave us behind but he instead pleaded with them to have mercy on us.
The police said they would consider it if my friend and I bribed them with Sh500 each.
My friend and I were scared … the police finally conceded a Sh100 discount and accepted Sh400 from each of us.
The second nightmare came just after Maasai Girl’s School, where we found another road block.
The same process followed and bags were turned upside down again. Two policemen took Sh300 from us … “