Corruption: Feed the Beast or Fight Back?

It's been awhile since I've updated regularly, I know.  I had family in town visiting and no computer access at home, but I swear I'll be better this month!  Here's another post based on suggestions left by you, my loyal readers.  If anyone else out there on the interwebs want to know more about Kenya, Captain Awesome, or my random musings on different topics leave a comment and I'll do what I can to appease the masses. 

When I saw the suggestion to write about something negative that has happened, how I handled it, and how it's affected my perspective of Nairobi, Kenya, or East Africa on my Request Line post I wasn't sure what I would write about since I had already kind of put myself out there more than I'm used to on my post about the armed robbery that occurred at a house where I was staying. But, alas, Kenyan police handed me the perfect thing to write about this past week.

As I mentioned, I had various family members come to visit over the last month.  My mom was the most recent visitor and made her first trip to Kenya and the African continent at the beginning of this month.  While she was here we rented a car and I drove her and another friend who recently arrived for the summer around Nairobi and upcountry.  (If you visit Kenya you must leave Nairobi to understand the greatness that is this country- a road trip to the Rift Valley or the Masai Mara or a jaunt to the coast is a must.)  After I dropped her at the airport I headed back to town to a friend's place and inadvertently made a supposedly illegal turn for which I was pulled over.  I normally just drive past the cops and pretend not to see them but this one jumped in front of the car making that impossible. 

I gave him my drivers license and surprisingly he didn't give me a hard time about it being a Texas license and informed me he understood it was international.  We discussed the fact that I had made this supposedly illegal turn and he told me it would be an 8,000 KSH (approx. 90 USD) fine.  He and his partner (not traffic cops but actual policemen) then got into the backseat of our car with their rifles, locked themselves in, and told us to drive to the police station.  He had already asked me how much money I had and when I told him I only had 2000 KSH (about 1500 more than what I hear most people bribe I was told this wasn't enough.  Which was exactly the same thing I heard from the men who broke into my friend's house.  What conclusion am I to draw from this encounter?  Are Kenyan police the cops or the robbers?) 

Up until this point I feel like I did my best to stay calm and rationally discuss the options but after they got into the car and forced me to drive I was just doing my best to keep it together.  I asked which police station I should drive towards (it was the Kilimani one) and then I was told to pull over in a random parking lot.  I attempted to pull into an area where there were other people around but was forced to back up and move to another parking area.  At that point they asked how much money my friend had on her and proceeded to take us both for everything in our wallets.  I am normally completely opposed to feeding the corrupt system of bribery in this country but unfortunately in this instance I freaked out.  I have beaten myself up a lot since then thinking of what better responses I could have said or done such as continuing on to the police station to deal with the police (still not ideal since it probably would have been several hours plus a court appearance), threatening to call the embassy and asking them to meet me at the police station (apparently they will back off sometimes if they think you are involved with your respective embassy), among other ideas that did not go through my head as I sat in the drivers seat with two armed police in my backseat.  As of now I have not reported this to the police anonymously or otherwise as I am fearful for retribution. 

Petty and violent crime is soaring here despite an increased police presence evident throughout Nairobi.  I can only assume the police's high visibility is not an attempt to better do their jobs but instead an opportunity to extort money from residents as fuel and food prices rise.  What is there to do?  Not drive?  Well, since I've heard of two other instances where police attempted to extort people who were passengers in a taxi or another driver, that's not even a solution.  Stay at home?  That doesn't necessarily keep you safe either.  So what do we do?  Feed the system or fix it from within or what?