(Continued from Cornered II)
“Oh no,” Idris says rhetorically. Vehicles have piled up behind his car, while the ones in front have not moved an inch for the last fifteen minutes.
“Let me go and speak to that police officer. Perhaps he will help,” the white man, who introduces himself as Smith, says. He unlocks the door of the vehicle and walks up to the traffic policeman. They confer for a couple of minutes before the cop calls a colleague, who is standing with two others on the opposite lane.
The second cop comes with Smith to the car.
“Why didn’t you call an ambulance?” the cop asks.
“We were just around the corner at Java Kimathi Street. We thought it would be faster to dash to Nairobi Hospital than sit and wait for an ambulance,” Idris replies. The cop grunts a reply that Idris doesn’t hear, but then he moves in front of the car and starts telling drivers to make way. Some comply easily, moving their cars sideways, while others curse and argue before complying. In the end, a path is created at the middle, and Idris inches the car forward. It is slow movement, but it is progress.
When they get to the GOP roundabout, they find that the other cops have already created a path all the way to Valley Road. Idris cruises by and finds another cop has created a path at Ralph Bunche Road. Within no time, he is at the Nairobi Hospital.
“Thank you Smith, that was amazing,” he tells his passenger as they roll into Nairobi Hospital.
“Don’t mention it. It is the least I could do to help. But one of the things I have realized during the period that I have stayed in Kenya is that the police can be very helpful if you talk to them nicely. Before I came here, I had been told that African police officers are brutal robots whose sole purpose is to instill fear. But I have seen that that is not true.”
“How long have you been in Kenya?”
“This is our third week.”
“What you are saying is partly true. But on the other hand, what you had been told earlier is also true.”
“What does that mean?”
Idris parks the car before responding. He and Smith hop out. Idris carries Peninah in his arms, and literary runs inside the building.
“There is something you were telling me earlier about the Kenyan police,” Smith tells Idris. Peninah is being attended to by doctors, and Smith has insisted that he will stay with Idris until they get some news. Idris has gotten the contacts of Peninah’s father from Peninah’s phone and has called him. The old man has told him that they live in a remote part of Taita Taveta, and they cannot make it to Nairobi today. Idris assured him that he will watch over Peninah and tell him what the doctors say, so that he can decide whether he should travel tomorrow.
“What I meant is that police officers are human. There are good officers in the Service and there rotten apples in there as well.”
“That is true, and that is the case everywhere. But what I meant is that African Police departments are often portrayed in the West as primitive and subject to the control of dictators. But my experience in Kenya has been very different. All the officers I have been going out their way to help.”
Although his mood is depressed because of the lack of news about Peninah, Idris cannot help smiling. They have been joined by Smith’s wife, who informs them that she has taken a motorcycle to beat the traffic snarl up.
“It is a complex issue. There are several things at play here. Are you Americans?”
“No we are Britons,” Mrs. Smith replies. “We are actually Welsh. When someone says they are British, most people assume they are English. But the Welsh, just like Scots, are British as well. Allan is from Swansea, while I am from Cardiff. But we have lived in London for twenty years before we came here.”
“That is true; many people take ‘Britain’ and ‘U.K’ to mean England. Anyway, that is beside the point. I don’t know much about race relations in the UK, but we have all heard the race strife in the US. What many liberal and progressive whites do not realize is that something I call reverse racism exists in Africa. This is racism exercised by black Africans against fellow black Africans. Some of us call it reverse racism, where black people treat white people better than fellow black people. It probably stems from the colonial days when white people were seen as a superior race. That may explain why the police have been going out of their way to help you.
I am not saying that there are no good cops in Kenya. There are. I have many friends in the Police Service, and they are very good people. But I have also been beaten up by police officers in the course of my work.
What you may have heard about African police departments and dictatorships is true. In Kenya we have been fortunate to have some semblance of reforms, unlike many other African countries. But that doesn’t mean that the administration doesn’t occasionally use the police to harass people. It does, but we are at a far better place than we were in previous years.”
“That is what I have been telling Allan. I spent my teenage years here in Kenya because my father was the High Commissioner…”
“What is the name of your father?”
“Jeremy Jones. He is retired now.”
“Your father has been supporting Peninah, the girl we have brought here, for years.”
“That girl is Peninah? I have been promising my father that I will look for her but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. It’s sad that we have had to meet this way.”
When he gets to the office two days later, Idris can detect a certain chill. That is strange because he has been working here for eight years and he has never experienced anything like it. He has been out of the office for two days, because he needed to run errands for Peninah. But he talked to the Executive Director on phone and he was allowed to take the two days off. But when he greets his colleagues in the morning, there is an obvious aloofness that he does not understand. Only the receptionist, Christine, maintains a friendly tone.
The last two days have been hectic, but fruitful. Peninah was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. Apparently, people with sickle cell anemia can develop high blood pressure in their lungs, and that is what had happened to Peninah. Fortunately, the doctors had been able to stabilize her condition. She is still admitted at the hospital, but her condition is stable.
In the course of his work, Idris has cultivated relationships with several media personalities. So after Peninah regained consciousness, he asked her whether she wanted her story aired in the media, to expose the insensitive remarks of the dean. Peninah was not keen on it, but he convinced her that it would help to tame the man’s arrogance and help other learners in future. When she agreed, Idris called a few journalists and told them Peninah’s story. The story was aired on NTV and appeared in the Daily Nation yesterday. Journalists from the two sister companies interviewed both Peninah and Idris. When they interview Idris, he narrated how he gave a weeping Peninah a lift from school after she had been demeaned by the dean and how she ended up in hospital.
The story gained traction as other media channels caught on. Other students came to give their experiences under the hands of the arrogant dean. The story generated so much heat online that the University was forced to suspend the dean.
At 11 am, Christine corners Idris outside the washrooms.
“At what time are you going for lunch today?” she asks.
“The usual, 1 pm. But I am not going for lunch. I will dash to hospital to see a friend.”
Idris is confused at first, but then realizes that Christine must have seen the TV interviews. Everyone in the country knows Peninah by now.
“Skip that meeting for now. You will see her in the evening. I am going for lunch at one. Follow me after about fifteen minutes. I will be at Mama Jay’s.”
“Mama Jay’s? You guys are eating at Mama Jay’s now?”
“No we are not, and that is precisely the point. I don’t want to be seen with you.”
Mama Jay’s café has a reputation of having ‘flat’ food. Most of the better paid workers around Ring Road Kilimani prefer Jediel’s Restaurant. But because food at Mama Jay’s is cheap, most of the lower income employees eat there, so it is still popular.
Idris leaves the office at 1.15 as he had agreed with Christine, the SWHC receptionist. He finds her at a table of two, which she has strategically booked to avoid having company. All the other seats are taken, and he finds her arguing with a construction worker who wants the seat.
“So what’s up Tina?” Idris asks after they settle down to eat. “Why is everyone treating me like a pariah today?”
“There was a staff meeting yesterday. The Executive Director called us and told us that the reason you did not show up is because you had been fired.”
“Yes. I tried to reach you yesterday after the meeting but your phone was off. I even left you WhatsApp messages.”
“Apparently I am hotcake right now. I have been getting calls from abut every blogger and journalist in this country. So I switched it off. Why have I been fired?”
“That is the shocking part. Apparently you tried to sexually seduce the Executive Director to get an edge over Sheila in next week’s interviews.”
“Why haven’t I been told?”
“The Executive Director probably doesn’t have the guts. But your dismissal letter is ready. She asked me to print it out today, just before I talked to you. You will probably find it on your desk when you get back to the office.”
“And the reason on the letter is seduction?”
“No, it is sexual harassment and insubordination.”
“Once I get the letter I will confront her.”
“You won’t find her in the office. She is flying to Geneva this afternoon. But there is something else you should know that the other guys at the office don’t know. I don’t think even the board members know.”
“What is that?”
“Professor Igweta, the dean you have been roasting in the media, is her boyfriend.”
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/people-man-guy-alone-indoor-2557416/
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