They had just finished cleaning it. The Kibera Law Courts jail is best described as a square room with a long, continuous, narrow (and of course heavily-grilled) window running along the top (next to the ceiling). Within the larger square of the jail is a smaller square in one corner. This smaller square comprises what we shall politely call the ablutions. The trouble with the ablutions is that the wall of the ablutions does not extend all the way up to the ceiling of the containing main room/square. For this reason, the smell stink stench that inexorably rises up from the jailhouse facilities permeates determinedly through the entire room. Doubly so if the door is open. Deciding whether to endure higher concentrations of the malodourous fumes seeping from that toilet in order to go and close the toilet door and thereby lessen the fumes is a taxing exercise in circular logic. But apart from this, the jail was actually pretty clean.
I asked the cops supervising the jail if one could perhaps offset their fine and the cash bail.
“Ati off-nini? Offset? Hapana huwezi offset fine yako na bail yako Boss, we toa kimbelembele yako hapa. Kaa huko na ungojee mtu wako.”
I set about finding a way to pay the fine. I called a friend of mine who gave me a rider’s number and also sent that rider KES 7,000 to deposit at the bank for my fine (thank you so much!). This rider seemed quite well-versed in proceedings.
“Pole sikusikia call yako, nilikuwa na-ride bike.”
“Sawa tu, ulipata SMS yangu iko na hizo account details?”
[Merry laughter] “Wacha nta-come saa hii.”
He and I haggled a bit about the cost of what he was doing for me, and I ended up paying him KES 720. I should probably have paid him KES 500 (though we did start off at 1K). But he knew exactly what needed to be done, reliable chap. What the extra 20 bob was for, we shall come back to later.
Moving swiftly on
In about an hour, the trusty rider on his noble steed boda-boda had arrived, bank slip in hand, and obtained a receipt which he was able to use to have me released.
Once your fine has found its circuitous and serpentine way into the labyrinth that is the Judiciary’s coffers, there remains the small matter of recovering your bail. As you know, the purpose of paying bail is to make sure you appear in court. If you do appear in court, you are entitled to a refund of said bail. The process beggars belief. You see, when you post bail you pay it either to the cops on the road, or you pay it at a cop station. The police station to which those cops are attached, or the station at which you pay it, is important here. Because on the day you appear in court, dear reader, an officer from that particular cop station must come with the bail that you paid during the weekend and return the very bail you posted. So when I asked for my bail I was asked:
“Haya ngojea hapo.”
Luckily mine came before my trusty rider arrived because a lady officer from Kabete Police Station was already at the Law Courts with the money. My bail was selected from a sheaf of notes that appeared miraculously from quite literally under her belt. One hapless offender was slightly less fortunate. He had posted his bail at Kiserian Police Station and was appearing before the Magistrate at the Kibera Law Courts. This poor fellow availed himself in court, his case was heard, judgement was passed, he tumana’d to KCB Account No ___________, his fine was paid, the deposit slip was brought, a receipt was obtained, it was presented at the cells, and he was released…
…then he had to wait for the ka-Landrover to come all the way from Kiserian Police Station, negotiating Bomas traffic and all, to bring his bail.
Friends, I don’t know which reforms Chief Justice Mutunga, former Registrar Shollei and Inspector-General Kimaiyo have been carrying out, but as a recent though temporary guest of the State I believe I am well-qualified to say that I am yet to see them. Is it not the Kenyan Judiciary and Police they have been reforming? Juu mi’ sioni! What an inefficient system! You miss work, the guy who you call to run that errand for you is also not working… in this day and age where we have computers, MPesa, and man has been to the moon, if someone has to wait for someone else to pay their own fines for them at the bank then come and get them out of jail, we must be reforming backwards.
I further fail to understand why money has to be physically brought from Kiserian to Kibera in a police vehicle for offenders to get their bail refunds. The powers that be in the Kenya Police must similarly be using a very loose definition of the term “reform”. At some point I began to think that I had ended up in hot soup in order to see these things for myself.
Before I conclude, dear reader, you may recall that I promised to return to the small matter of why I paid the rider KES 720 instead of KES 700. Do you know what the 20 bob was for? It was so that the rider could pay the askari at the gate of the Kibera Law Courts so that his motorbike was not stolen therefrom while he was getting me out. Yes. We live in a country where your motorbike can actually be stolen from the premises of the Law Courts themselves. Ati a guy just comes in wearing those fluorescent jackets emblazoned “Waititu for Governor”, hotwires the thing and disappears.
In the language of the court, I rest my case.