Ten Men & a Cold Police Cell.

Onkwani could not just stop.
“Ebu toa hizo documents uwaonyeshe!”
You would think the buffoon was the OCS!


“By the way, Kijana ebu toa kila kitu, wewe ata tunafaa kuwa tukiongea ukiwa pande ile ingine.” (Referring to the side where suspects were locked up) “Mnajiona wajaja sana siku hizi.” Said one of the officers.


I stood up from my sitting position where I had crossed my legs like a boss and walked over to the desk. I emptied my pockets of everything I had. I was a half-baked suspect at this point.


“Kijana mbona unadanganyana?”
“Wewe sasa na wewe, umeniskiza ama ni kurukia maneno tu? Umeniuliza swali nikakosa kukujibu ama nikakudanganya? Kikosi relax.” I responded
“Na wewe ni mjeuri!”


“Jeuri hujua jeuri mwenzake,” “Haya ndio hizo! Ukipata kitu imeforgiwa uulize! Sio kusema hapa ati nadanganya!”


My pockets were pretty loaded. I had my passport, my Student Pilot License, My Wilson Airport’s Airside pass, a yellow fever certificate that was just two weeks old, my driving license, School receipts, my certificate of service aka the ‘Green Book’, My national Id, my NHIF card, an ATM card, and a passport picture in pilot’s uniform inclusive of epaulets. I also had 150/-, a data cable, earphones, handkerchief and a generous piece of tissue paper.


“Kijana una maneno, hizi votu zote zilikuwa kwa hio mifuko tu?”
“Sawa, rudi sasa uketi ukoo!”


So I took my seat, bench rather and allowed them, to peruse my pile of documents. Everyone was stretching out their hand to get to the documents, like kids who just seen cookies for the first time.


“Mimi hata hakunionyesha hizo zote! Si nilikwambia wewe ni mjanja sana Maina!” Said Onkwani.


“Ujanja gani sasa na wewe? Si ulisema unataka documents tatu na nikakupea tatu? Shida yako sasa ni gani?”


“Wee kijana ulikuwa jeshi mwaka gani?” This was the second cop. He had a Kamba accent. He was holding my Green Book.
“08 hadi juuzi tu.”
“Mbona sikuamini nanii?”
“Hio sasa ni shida yako, mimi nimekupea kila kitu.”


“Nauliza kwa sababu hii green book siiamini. Hii River Road unajitengenezea tu! Unajua hakuna haja utundanganye na uko station, hii ni fraud na impersonation. Kwanza askari jeshi hio ni mbaya sana! Utaozea jela nanii!”


“Maina sasa wewe, hii kesi yako ni kubwa.” Unajua mtu akisema ulitaka kuiba gari yake hio ni maneno kubwa sana?” Said Ndung’u.


“Fanya hivi… Unaitwa nani? (Referring to Onkwani) twende pale OB, uandike statement alafu hii maneno tutadhibitisha kesho.”


“Ni sawa” said Onkwani.
“Sasa, Ndung’u, hii jamaa unajua hii ata sio kesi yetu sasa. Huyu anafaa aitiwe Military Police.”
I was there on my bench acting like I was not in the room.


“Maina, wewe, hii maneno yako tutangoja mkubwa kesho atatue.” “Andikisha hizi vitu kwa evidence na ujazwe pale kwa OB. Leo wewe ni mgeni wetu.”


Cell, Jail, Prison, Handcuffs, criminal, ArrestI must admit I am clueless to these police things. The reason I was not worried was because, I had not done any crime and I had been through worse a cell… ‘This is nothing’ I told myself. Whatever magic took place in the next 30 minutes couldn’t stick in my head. However, I remember my documents were picked and placed in one old envelope and locked up in a nearby chest of drawers. I then walked to the occurrence desk, Ndung’u wrote a very large paragraph on that occurrence book in the lines of fraud and impersonation. I then gave all my items. As for the wearable, I removed one shoe and my belt, and watch. The 150 shillings were also recorded as my property. At this point, the nice language was gone and a few insults escorted me to the cell at the farthest end of the block. They said the case would be handled the next day. Asked if I wanted to call anyone, I said no need. I would be okay.


So here I was in police custody. This was not rehearsed. The cell was unusually clean. Not as I would have expected it to be, considering the stories that, I had heard from friends and read from newspapers and other sources. I do not know why I was so calm, maybe because I was innocent. There was this bulky Kale cop who was on shift and he was unusually vulgar and loud. For some reason he hated me, or he was in just a bad mood. A cop’s mood can be triggered by anything including missing the chance to do the usual nightclub or wines and spirits joint patrols collecting the “daily returns”. The words he had used on me were still ringing and stinging. I was worried and wondered what I would tell my friends, family or those who are genuinely concerned with my welfare.


“Kijana hauna wa kupigia simu?”
“Apana! Wako lakini sitaki!”


I knew what they wanted. The faster I got someone to come get me, the easier they would have made their take for that day. I wanted to think this and other things through. It had been a rough time for me and maybe this induced seclusion would be a good thing.


I was all alone in the cell. It had been washed and had traces of water on some spots that had yet to dry. Actually, this is the type of floor that does not dry easily. The non-plastered floor that you would find in old school bathrooms so that you do not slip. Not these smooth plastered ones that have to be fitted with rubber mats to reduce the risk of falling. Anyway, I am in a cell not in a bathroom. The windows were almost nonexistent. Two or three spaces of grilled space high in the wall that were half a foot in height and reinforced with thick metal rods. I do not even think the rods were necessary considering a man’s head could not even fit in the space. I could not read graffiti. It was too dark; I would do that in the morning. I paced within the cell along the wall in an awkward limp. With one shoe, limping around the cell would not help me in any way. It would not even contribute a grain of an idea to my head. So what would I be thinking here… Nothing, so I decided just to settle. The shoe-less foot was already getting numb.


I could not tell the time because I had no watch. It was at the occurrence desk. After the limping session, I took a corner and sat down. I only had a shirt on me and it was extremely cold! Allow me to blame the devil here because he had found his idea of Job… It started raining. The cell was also located near the busy highway and every passing vehicle echoed in the small cell like a bad nightmare. A nightmare inside another one for that matter. I tried to sleep but I could not sleep. Alternatively, I slept, but I could not tell for how long I had closed those eyes. My derrière was numb from the cold hard floor. I stood to relax a bit and I bet I heard one of my joints creak. I tried doing some push-ups, a few squats and rubbed my palms to my chest, to try warm my body up.


After a while, I heard a commotion outside and my curiosity walked me to the peephole on the heavy steel door. Curiosity and boredom. I saw around seven guys of diverse ages and social class being guided towards the door. From the peephole, a waft of alcohol breath and cigarette smoke reached my nostrils. There was also a hint of the holy weed that came through the same medium. They were all unruly and one was bleeding from the nose. They were being guided towards the cell that I was in.
“Damn!” I cursed to myself. I was not so sure I needed company at this point… But again this was not my bedroom.
Intoxicated people of different ages and origin with unknown intentions in one cell against one sober, hungry and cold guy. ‘Did these guys even get searched!? Someone might have smuggled a pen knife here!!!’


The Kale cop sarcastically knocked on the door and went ahead to unlock it. He barked;
“Maina jeuri! Nimekuletea Wageni!”
“Asante Siiiiiiiir!!!” dragging it out as sarcastically as 9 month old recruits after getting a reprieve from a killer physical punishment.
“Ata nilikuwa nimeanza kuboeka!”
“Wewe ni kichwa ngumu sana! Sawa, mujuane basi!”


With that, he banged the door as he locked the cell up. At first, I thought this was some version of that thing they do in prison movies. Where all the guys then come to you and start sniffing & sizing you up like a freshly rolled joint. Some nasty part of me even told the other innocent part: ‘see why you leave belts at the reception…?’ then by instinct my venturi* just tightened.




In movies, it’s normally the big guys who bully the small guys or the old guys who bully the new inmates. The good thing is that here, none of that happened. I mean, me against 7 people. No thank you. You see, this was an “uptown” jail, so the choice of suspects was also “uptownish” – a little more civilized if anything. It also dictates the nature and size of any exchanges that should secure a release. The new team did not bully me. As I had mentioned in my other incarceration story, inmates do not bully or fight each other in real sense. In any case, they are friendly to one another. You never know where you would meet in the future. I may even have a cell phone which we can use to communicate and plot all sorts of evils with the outside world. After all, people won’t be here for long. Just a night maybe. However! I don’t promise you such peace at the central police station or Kamukunji.


drunk, three drunk men, Drinking, alcohol“Freddie nilikwambia upatie hio fala thao ukakataa! Ona sasa!”
“Ulikuwa unataka nimpatie thao alafu bado tuingizwe ndani?”
“Wewe ni malenge sana!”
“Usinilaumu! Si ungempea wewe! Tutatoka tu! Hii sio mara ya kwanza tunaingia ndani!”
“Hii ndio shida ya kuitiwa pombe na hukuwa na mpango ata ya kukunywa hio siku! Tungekula tu nyama na tukunywe supu!”


The last statement was actually a mumble or a soliloquy of sorts. But it fueled the argument. Three of these guys were together and the other four were arrested at different locations. Two were at the end of an NTSA equation, one did not have a national Identity Card and the other guy was just silent. He never said what he did. The three rowdy ones were drunk and disorderly. I think they also insulted the cop or refused to “toboka” to secure their release – according to their argument.


“Wee mjamaa na venye unakaa msafi, sio mlevi mwenzetu, umefanya nini?”
“Kesi ya gari tu…”
“Gari aje?”
“Suspect wa kuiba gari”
“Na wewe ni ndume! Peke yako ama wengine wako wapi?”
Another added,
“Hapo una miaka kadhaa mjamaa”
They all broke into a laugh and only a smile to the silent guy who seemed not to know where he was or could not believe he was in a cell.


After what felt like an eternity, the bleeding guy – one of the guys who was caught while driving under the influence said;


“One day this car will kill me!” “Hiiii gari! ItaNiua!”


“Gari gani mzae? Uko jela bana!”
We all broke into a laugh. The guy opened up and said that he drove his Voxy into a ditch saying he thought it was a puddle. He did not even have his seat belt on and that is how he banged his head onto the steering wheel. The police found him there with a broken nose, bloody all over his face and smelling like a distillery. Police are ruthless, though! Yaani instead of taking a guy to hospital, they bring him direct to the tin…


Other stories flowed through the night. Mostly of prostitutes, alcohol influenced escapades, bar brawls, estate drama, a little bit of politics and business. Two of the guys hit it off on that front and I heard them promise each other to link up after they secured their release. Two more drunk men were pushed into the cell at some point later in the night and they immediately fell asleep on the cold hard floor. We also heard women shouting in the cell block and we all ran for the tiny hole in an attempt to see what was happening. These could definitely not be people’s wives. They were definitely late night business ladies… They were all in mini – skirts and dresses with colors that catastrophically clashed with the rest of their outfits. They were drunk and loud. In this weather, anyone wearing such outfits was probably a jiko on the inside. From a hole almost an inch in diameter, the men had already cracked open these women. They had even decided whose farm had been cultivated the most in the most recent season. That is the few hours before their fate.


Alone in Jail, Jail, Prison“Lakini enyewe maisha… yani kasichana kanatembeza ngozi mzuri hivo na kuna mwanaume mahali anangoja apate bibi?”


“Wewe sema hivo na wengine hapo ni madame wa watu na mama za watoto mahali!”


The women inmates really excited the guys, me included. Rather it added to my many, many thoughts that could help me see morning. For a very long while, the conversation turned to women and sexcapades. The stories were just outrageous. I even started thinking of women myself. Started ranking the unmarried ladies in my circle and eliminating them in my own conception of The Bachelor in my head. At some point the cell got warmer, the drunk guys sobered up and the cell got cozier. The next time I opened my eyes, the sun was up already.


Thank God! Nobody stabbed me.

To be Continued…


One comment

  1. […] Previously Most of my cell mates were up already and talking in hoarse voices. This was probably because of the cold cell. I was in a worse situation and I was scared I would get some bad respiratory infection courtesy of this cold. For hours with a shirt only, I was on that cold and damp floor. I was scared of other things as well. I had held all my body excretions for the longest time ever and I was sure I would go into toxic shock or something. Holding number one and two together was not easy… trying to act hero and proud that I could not ask the door to be opened for me to take a leak at least. We heard footsteps and the cell went silent. The loud clanking of the metallic door echoed in the room as the door was unlocked. “Wapi walevi wangu?” asked the officer. The now sobered up guys arose and followed the cop. The two last tenants of the cell were still fast asleep. I wondered what they had taken. He closed the door behind them, escorted them to the common area, and told them to wait for him there. I then got back to my corner. After several minutes, Ndung’u from last night came and opened the cell. “Wapi mwizi wa gari?” *Silence* but I knew it was me he was looking for and I decided to just sit there and act dumb. “Kip!” “ile mkora ya jana ya jeshi ilikuwa inaitwa nani?” Shouting towards the occurrence desk, which was directly ahead of the corridor. “Itana Maina! Ataitika!” “Ama Kikosi” followed by a mocking laugh. “Maina!” “Habari ya asubuhi?” I asked him “Yangu utaweza kweli? Eh!” He responded. “Kuja basi tumalize hii maneno yako!” I was led to the common area, limping after him. My joints creaked from the cold and awkward positions on the hard floor the night before. “Wewe sasa unatakaje?” “Ongea na sisi vizuri” “Kuongea vizuri aje?” “Statement niliandika jana imetosha kwa sasa.” “Hio kuongea vizuri ni yako!” “Ata simu hautapiga?” “Nipigie nani na mbona?” “Kesi yako ni kubwa kijana. Rudi huko ufikirie tukingoja OCS!” I led the way to the cell. It is not that I did not know what they wanted and what ‘talking nicely’ meant. I knew he wanted me to butter him, which I would not do. I did not even have money on me even if I wanted. As anyone ever been through a Kenyan Police station knows, it is never that easy. That is if you are part of the hoi polloi like I was. I detoured to the toilet that was at the corner of the corridor, just next to the men’s cell. I was so relieved. A short call once eliminated, I would hold No. two for as long as possible. A few minutes after I got back to the cell, tea and bread came through for the remaining state guests. I was hungry and cold. The sunrays that managed to penetrate the common area had warmed me up a little bit, but I still needed that heat, that came from food or just something warm inside. The tea was not all that, but I highly appreciated the government’s hospitality at the point. It was white unsliced bread with a hint of margarine on it. The last time I had unsliced bread was in 2013, or so I think. This was back in the day when we used to buy the hot loaves from the TuskysDeli at Tuskys Embakasi. I used to have a whole loaf, – whole meal that is, and a packet of milk, then head for night shift. This brought memories from back in the day, especially what happened after the loaf and milk had settled warmly in my belly. Sentry roles at the main gate. I finished my share and I got to my corner. At some point, I thought of eating the share of the other two suspects with me but opted to make that decision later. At this point, I knew people might have started to get worried. My phone had been off for too long. There was another bang on the door and the other two inmates forced to wake up and dragged out of the cell. They did not even have breakfast! Wait, I did not pity them, I was dancing inside! More bread for me! Chance had just made the extra loaves decision for me. The guy who brought breakfast was not even a cop. A random person who I think just brings around the food for the inmates. He was the same one who brought the uncooked ugali yesterday – I know and I still pinched it severally. I needed it! I crawled to the spot where the breakfast had been placed on the floor. Just those few minutes and the tea had already gotten cold. I compressed the two pieces together and quickly ate them with the cold tea in one of the cups. I then thought to myself that I would tell whoever asks that they had already had their share only that they were too intoxicated to notice. Nobody asked. For another very long period, I stayed in that cell alone. I cannot even remember what I was thinking about. Cannot remember the last time I washed my hands… but I still ate as if I was the cleanest chap out there! ‘Brace for the diarrhoea that will be coming our way young man!’ said an inner voice. But at some point I remember thinking how messed up my life was, or how foolish some decisions are. Who would have known things would turn out this way anyway? After a moment of internal self-harangue, the cell door opened again and another cop came through. “Kuja!” I stood up, followed him to the office we were in yesterday, and seated there in his fake majesty was Onkwani. At the back of my mind, I told myself ‘this clown should have died in his sleep last night!!!’ that was replaced with another thought! ‘Never again…!’ Call me a hate monger, or tribal but should I need to do business with a man again, I should not cross the border by too far. I could see the stereotype he attached to my case and hatred radiating from his eyes. This is the typical product of fed-and-drunk-belief that people from central region are thieves. That we do not like working hard but love money to the North Pole and back. The police officer stepped outside and Onkwani was the first to speak. He was wearing a grey oversize suit that still had the labels on and black shoes ‘idiot, I said inside’. He had his legs crossed and his hands around his knees. I loathed his demeanour, which was so fake I wanted to kick him in the face. Trust me from my standing position, his wife would not have recognized him. That is if he had one. But then again this was a police station, and I did not have a shoe on my best foot. He spoke first. “Young man! You should know this is Nairobi, and there are people of all types.” “Your point?” ‘Seriously, what is the problem with this guy and the people of Nairobi? Did he just get here from Masimba?’ “Why would you want to steal from me?” “I have worked hard all my life, doing business humbly here and there only to meet you. I have never faced a cunning person as you.” “Now that you have already become the Judge and the Executioner, how did I plan to steal your car? I paid you, right?” “Noooo! Paying me is not the issue, your cover story is!” “So when you look at me, top to bottom, you see a thief right?” “Sindio!” “Alright Onkwani, let’s see how this will turn out then.” I was still standing there looking at him. My face is not a scary one, so scaring him was out of the question. Talking nicely was also out of the question. He was so full of himself and had issues of his own that he needed to let go. I being the medium of course. I let him have his field day. “Maina keti chini, relax tutatue hii maneno!” said Ndung’u as he entered the office followed by two other officers. ‘Hmm, that was unusually polite,’ I thought to myself. […]


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