Hey Mr. Policeman! I didn’t want any trouble, and clearly you saw that I didn’t pose any trouble. But you went on to step on me to prove that you’re the one with the gun. That you can blow my head off in a sneeze and I will do absolutely nothing about it. Okay, let me start from the top.
I have never been a fanatic of rioting. Neither has it ever crossed my mind. After today, I have to say that it’s all because I have never really been provoked to riot. My first instinct whenever there’s a gathering of people I would call hooligans before today, or simply agitated people with the aura of rioting, is to make myself scarce. Say it with me, cowards live longer.
So never at one point have I ever been on the pressed side, looking for somewhere and some way to express to a governing authority for doing or not doing. I must say, up until today. Thank God I experienced this. Now, I don’t walk in oblivion like before. Now, I don’t consider rioters as people with nothing to do. I don’t mean to applaud rioting as a means of pushing for justice. Like today, we have lost the third comrade to criminal activity around Kakamega and there’s a way this one hurt to the core. One, because it’s the third, two, and most importantly, because of how Macreen lost her life. And three, this one’s a personal reason, I couldn’t help but painfully realise how every single girl is prone to such devious acts of sexual violence on our streets. When you look at a girl today, kindly see an endangered species. Now more than ever, girl child empowerment is a justified course.
Rioting to express our anger to the police for allegedly not doing their jobs well, is not the best course of action. I agree. Let’s however put the scholastic cap aside for a moment, shan’t we?
Jairus and I are rushing back to campus after lunch just before the police and robber games begin outside university campus. Along the way, just 100m before the school gate, we follow suit when passers by, mostly comrades, sit on the pavement as a sign of ‘we mean no trouble’ to the anti riot police already deployed at the gate. Honestly, at first I silently protested at the senseless act by standing while others sat. What was the point yet no one was rioting. For real, there were no riots in the area but these guys in blue were already treating us like we’ve cast the first stone. But before they could see me and mark me a defiant, I humbled like everyone else and sat, waiting for them to clear us as the untroubled ones.
On their way towards us, they kept spitting words of agitation. When they got to us, the first policeman cleared us and the second one stood before us. He was doubtlessly steamed up as if he had been ordered away from his honeymoon to come and deal with ‘rioting students.’ Somehow, amongst the people in our pavement group, I seemed to be his favourite pick. He probed me. Asking pointless questions about why we cannot just study and we have to riot. Now we think since he does not have anything better to do, he should come and exorcise our rioting spirits. I looked at him, dry of words because I swear I didn’t see anyone rioting. Neither was I carrying a twig for Chrissake.
Oh brother it was not the end. The failure to give him answers to his rhetoric questions seemed to work him up even more.
“Ushaigongwa ukapasuliwa kichwa?!”
Another rhetorical question that surely, and I mean surely deserves no answer. What was I supposed to say? That eh nimepasuliwa kichwa and miraculously I am alive seated on a pavement in humility simply because standing before a police officer will be a sign of rudeness and, you know, the first act of rioting?
I’m not sure whether the blueticks I fed him or the fact that I wear glasses and look more scholastic than others pricked him more. I’ll need some help on that. In the meantime,
“Keti hapa!” Pointing to the middle of the passenger road.
I looked at that spot and looked back at him. Now, Mr. Policeman, I have been humble enough as required of me. You have found absolutely no fault with me or the group I happen to be in. Why should I sit in the middle of the road? So you can prove a point neh? That when you bark an order, it’s straight from the government and I must bow to it neh?
You repeated the order this time more harshly. My street wisdom gathered from high school tells me that to avoid more canes from the teacher, just bend to the six canes up until they finish. Do not waste the teacher’s time because that is equal to testing their patience. Only that now, this is not a teacher who has a mandate over only my ass. This is a man with a gun and a rungu. It’s either my ass on that dusty spot, or my ass on a hospital bed. Choose brother. And choose wisely.
There, Mr. Policeman, are you happy now? Can we please go like you let others go? What scores do you have to settle with me?
Seems we were far from over. I might as well just tie my seatbelt to the ground. That was especially clear when even after sitting, you went on to step on my foot. So now you brought the fight to my foot. A foot that has done nothing close to signaling a kick on the backside of your ego. I looked at your boot and my poor suffocating foot. I swallowed two sacks of my ego at a go. My sore throat is on you now.
I imagined how superior you must have been feeling to belittle me like that. I hope you sleep better tonight. I imagined how I paid someone to wash my shoes because my schedule doesn’t give me so much time to do some things. And why not if I can promote someone? Now here you are, quickly rendering the penny I spent yesterday to have those shoes washed useless. The day is not even over yet. Sitting in an office does not dirtify shoes. I wasn’t going to worry about dirty shoes for one more rotation before the next wash. I guess I have to swallow that loss too. Remember I haven’t even mentioned a thing about my black khaki trousers kissing dirt for the second time in less than two minutes.
“Unafanya course gani!”
Does that have anything to do with my being here? Anyway.
“Journalism? Si unipige picha!”
Wooow officer. Just wow! I must admit I didn’t see that coming. You have a good art of verbal surprises. You’d do well in our industry, maybe, but unfortunately, not with that attitude. Let’s just assume you were trying to be funny. Or maybe not because of your tone, jameni! So let’s take two and say that was another rhetoric stunt. You seem to have been full of them this afternoon. I tell you if they were bullets, right now I’d be at the station waiting for the midnight train to join the three comrades who unfortunately went before us. The problem wasn’t the rhetorical questions. I can live with that. The problem is how you expected me to answer them and how angry you seemed to get with me for not responding.
To be honest, if you were me you’d not have anything to say. Maybe because you fear that you have a loose tongue when you’re annoyed and under negative pressure. A word from your tongue is equal to twelve rounds of ammunition that would send all the police troops your way in a merciless charge.
By the way, Mr. Policeman. Man to man. Okay? I mean, tuongee kama wanaume. Were you intimidated by me or was I just a random pick? Was I colourful like a pinnata and you just couldn’t wait for the slightest provocation to ‘Gonga me mpaka nipasuke kichwa’ as you’d later tell me would happen if I didn’t leave that area immediately after? Were you intimidated by the course I pursue? Do you have a bone to chew with journalists? Oh, so you know we take pictures of you while you harass innocent people like me and implicate you for unnecessary force? You do know and that is why you loathe the thought of journalists like me. How I wish someone took you a picture so I’d post along with this. But I have someone worth more than a picture, I have a voice!
A voice that I was too careful to use before your presence because I love my life yoh! My parents love me. The thought of how my mum’s heart would beat irregularly when she hears of how I was roughed up by a policeman flushes the strength out of me. How I love my brothers, one whom I haven’t seen face to face for more than six months. Oh goodness, how I love my love who will say, “To hell with my father’s housing project that’s keeping me in Nairobi,” and jet back to Kakamega with her own troop. Among the troops will be a battalion of tears. Oh how I love the bones you would have broken on my body that allow me to play the drums that I beatbox to like the three meals in a day.
I had to say a mild no to your senseless question because it seemed you were not going to let me go without one. You then asked the girl beside me the same question and she said, “Education.” I thought you’d probe her for pursuing the same course as the late Macreen. Credits to you for not dipping your toes in that.
You then gave me strict orders to depart while swearing that ‘tutajua hatujui’ if we become part of what was about to go down.
You then released my foot and left. We stood up. Jairus joined me. Then it hit me, this is the reason why riots begin. If that’s not the reason, then this is the reason why they gather fuel. You were unprovoked but look, you went on picking on us. On me, for the crime of being on the road where you were deployed.
I don’t mean to be irrational, Mr. Policeman. At the end of the day, you’re the implementer of the law. Maybe it’s standard procedure to have subjects sit down on the ground for you to gauge who is trouble and who is not, in the face of tension. I salute you for doing your job. Maybe the next time we meet, I’ll be the one buying and maybe I will remind you of this day while role playing exactly what you did and you’d burst out laughing saying, “Naah Naah that wasn’t me bro.” Yeah, you’d call me bro because at the time, you will not have a gun and a rungu and you’ll know I’m the one buying.
But then I will also tell you, maybe you should also consider that that was a little bit too much for a comrade who had no threat on him except a pair of glasses, a fresh haircut and a stern look that shouts, ‘You use unnecessary force and I am a training journalist. Do the math.”
Speaking of math, there’s something Jairus said after that scenario. For his safety, I will not say it. But it sure is something to think about.
I chose not to talk about how you tried to call your colleague after you ordered me to sit in the middle of the road. My interpretation of that was you wanted to show him that you’ve singled out a mastermind who has attempted not to talk. God loves me Mr. Policeman.
So mjango, now I have come face to face with the claims from people who cry about police brutality. I confirm on behalf of all of them, although mine was on a smaller scale, that they are not crying wolf. If this is the small scale version of what goes on, some of these cases may not be further from the truth. I appreciate the experience because I will never judge the people who riot. Again, not to praise it, but now I understand the pain and injustice that cries in them. Now I know how peaceful demonstrations turn into ugly scenes. Now I know why.
Good day Mr. Policeman.
And Macreen, I hope we get justice for you.