Snapshot: Corruption

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by Cynthia Vukets on September 2, 2009

Corruption is big in Kenya. Politicians love to talk about it. Journalists love to write about it. Everyone loves to condemn it. But, despite signs like this one at Nairobi University, it seems like things might not necessarily be moving along the anti-corruption highway. For example, three young Canadians go out one Friday night to a cheapie Ethiopian restaurant we’d been introduced to the weekend before. (Incidentally one of the only restaurants we’d been to in Nairobi, so don’t ask me why we felt moved to go back. It was the chickpeas.) Cab gets stopped by police at “checkpoint” they set up on road. Same checkpoint friends had been stopped at coming to meet us at same restaurant previous weekend. They had successfully argued their way off the shoulder and to the restaurant. Not so for us. “You’re not wearing your seatbelts,” said one officer, leaning into the backseat with his billy club out. “But, but, but . . . we thought it wasn’t law that you had to in the backseat!” we tried. “But we WERE wearing them, we just took them off. Just now!” we tried again. To no avail. We didn’t really have the energy or wherewithal to get hauled to the police station, so we handed our cabbie 600 shillings, he got out of the car to give the cop the old “crinkly handshake” and we were on our way. There’s a hotline you can call to report corruption in the police force. But no one answers.

Corruption is big in Kenya. Politicians love to talk about it. Journalists love to write about it. Everyone loves to condemn it. But, despite signs like this one at Nairobi University, it seems like things might not necessarily be moving along the anti-corruption highway. For example, three young Canadians go out one Friday night to a cheapie Ethiopian restaurant we’d been introduced to the weekend before. Cab gets stopped by police at “checkpoint” they set up on road. Same checkpoint friends had been stopped at coming to meet us at same restaurant previous weekend. They had successfully argued their way off the road shoulder and to the restaurant. Not so for us. “You’re not wearing your seatbelts,” said one officer, leaning into the backseat with his billy club out. “But, but, but . . . we thought it wasn’t law that you had to in the backseat!” we tried. “But we WERE wearing them, we just took them off. Just now!” we tried again. To no avail. We didn’t really have the energy or wherewithal to get hauled to the police station, so we handed our cabbie 600 shillings, he got out of the car to give the cop the old “crinkly handshake” and we were on our way. There’s a hotline you can call to report corruption in the police force. But no one answers.