Chapter 12

 

The struggle continues

 

            The blue, red and yellow police colours were bright at the police station. An old Kenyan flag flapped casually at the entrance, welcoming visitors and new inmates. The three men were strip-searched and thrown into a hot cell with five other inmates. The cell capacity was three, with three mattresses on the floor evidence of this.

“Welcome to jail my brothers,” Nderitu said with a grin. “Pumping iron and group showers is the life ahead.” His whole body hurt from the police kicks. He reached up and touched his swollen cheek with a cringe.

            "That was fun," Kamandu said. He was pressed against the cell bars, doing his best to stay away from the other inmates. His face looked okay but he had been kicked a few times in the torso. The cell reaked of sweat, dirt and human waste and the only window was located high above the cell toilet. A metal grid divided one cell from the next and Nderitu noticed the dozens of half naked inmates herded into the nearby cell. They were half naked because of the heat and also because there was no jail uniform to wear.

            "We have to get out of here before nightfall," Kamandu said, sounding worried. "These cops drink too much at night and someone may get hurt if they come burging in here. I'm not getting kicked again."

            “And the food is not good either,” a strange looking man volunteered. “Dinner is half cooked ugali with boiled vegetables.”

            Nderitu limped over to join Kamandu. Patrick groaned and also joined the two men by the cell entrance. It was moments like these that made Nderitu think about freedom and the journey a people had taken. The bands had played and the Kenyan flag had been raised to symbolize better days ahead. People had hugged, from the villages to the cities, as fighter jets displayed a new found power in the skies; a tribute to a new world. Nderitu had believed in it, anxious to carry on the torch in Kenyatta's footsteps. ‘And while we celebrate today, we must prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,’ Kenyatta had said.

            "Helloo!" Kamandu yelled. "Hello! I need to talk to someone please!"

            There was no response. A drunk man in a neighbouring cell started singing.

            "Hello!" Is someone there! I have a message for the chief!"

            They heard a scuffling noise followed by footsteps. A young policeman in his mid twenties wearing a blue shirt and black pants appeared looking hesitant and Nderitu instantly knew he was a desk cop. He looked uncertain and intimidated by the new prisoners.

            "I have an envelope for you if you can get a message to your chief young man," Kamandu said in a voice full of authority.

            The young cop blinked and considered the offer. "You don't have any money sir. We searched you." Bribery in police stations was an every day thing. It was not a question of whether to accept money, it was rather a question of how much to ask or give.

            "My lawyer will be arriving here in less than an hour," Kamandu continued. "He will have an envelope for you, but we need for the chief to be here when the lawyer arrives. I have an urgent message for him."

            The policeman looked sold at the mention of an approaching lawyer. People in the village did not talk like that. Lawyers were but fantasy men with suits, only real in the western world. The policeman seemed to be pondering how to get the message to the chief. "Okay," he said. "What should I tell him?"

            "Tell him 'The Last Mau Mau' are asking for him. Tell him we know about the government auditors."

            The policeman waited, but Kamandu was done. "And you think he will come running if I tell him this?"

            "Just do as I say," Kamandu said carelessly.

            The cop left and the three men sighed. There was nothing else to do but hope and wait. Nderitu remembered the chief from his own village when he was a boy. He had been like a father to the whole village. Back then chieftain had been hereditary from father to first born son. The chief had settled both family and land disputes in the village. He had been in charge of security and making sure that all homes had food and shelter. The current chiefs were nothing but government employees.

            It took two hours before the chief arrived. He walked in alone, dressed in brown police uniform, wearing a green beret on his head. In his hand he carried a short shiny stick as did many other chiefs around the country. Nderitu heard footsteps and then saw the short man with a big belly. Chief Karui had smiling eyes that made one feel naked. Nderitu remembered him from the night of the burglary and wondered whether the chief would recognize them. They had stolen his money and left him vulnerable.

            "What do we have here now?" the chief said as he studied the men in the cell. "The Last Mau Mau. I have read so much about you and how you have terrorized people in Nairobi. Now look at you, all cozy in my cell."

            Kamandu cleared his throat. "We need to talk in private."

            The chief laughed. "Its okay, we can talk here. You said something about an audit, what did you mean?"

            Kamandu lowered his voice. "Two weeks from today will be the end of the month. Your men will realise that you can't pay them because you don't have money. They will demonstrate on the streets and the story will be all over the news. Politicians will want to know why you can't pay your policemen and the government will request for an external audit on your books. They will turn your life upside down and condemn your funds management procedures. You will be placed on paid administrative leave while detectives from Nairobi comb every inch of your books and life. You will never be a chief again and may end up in jail depending on what they find in your books."

            The chief stared at Kamandu like he had been slapped. He knew everything Kamandu had said but had never heard it put like that before - in one breath. "The government already knows I can't pay my men. I was robbed and have reported on the same,” the chief said in a shaky voice. “If accused of anything I will be out on bail in no time anyway. You can’t blackmail me. The legal system is ill-equiped to tackle people of power like me. You are talking about taking me through a corrupt investigation system, through a corrupt anti-corruption system and a corrupt judiciary. You don’t scare me."

            Kamandu smiled and shook his head as though to a child. “You are not hearing me. I'm talking about helping you if you let us out of here. We both know how the government works. This is the same government that pays teachers' salaries one month late. You have reported money as stolen and that’s good. But what makes you think the government will pay your policemen on time? Your payroll money was not insured since it was not stolen from a bank. It was stolen from your office safe. Mark my words now, the demonstrations will happen and the press will look for someone to blame for the mess. The government will hand you over on a silver platter and claim negligence on your part. We are all important in this life, but we are all dispensable."

            The chief took a step forward. "You seem to know a lot about the stolen money. Maybe you took it."

            "Stay focused Chief," Kamandu said without flinching. "I can make this all go away, or you can take your chances and watch your name get dragged through the mud."

            The chief looked troubled and pursed his lips. He walked away suddenly and yelled, "Let them out!" The sound of jingling keys was music to the men's ears. The lock clicked and the gate slid open. Kamandu, Nderitu and Patrick stepped out of the cell, and fought hard not to look relieved.

            Chief Karui's office was located out of view behind the counter at the entrance. Kamandu took the seat facing the chief while Nderitu and Patrick sat a little farther behind him. A sudden commotion at the entrance made the chief pause, and strong words carried over to the room. "I need to see him now!" a familiar voice growled.

            Two seconds later, a shadow appeared in the doorway as a black suit walked into the office. It was Silas wearing dark sunglasses and a grey suit. He ignored the men in the room, set a briefcase on the chief's desk and took off his sunglasses. Nderitu was relieved to see him.

            "I'm here to post bail for my clients," Silas said, snapping the briefcase open.

            The chief leaned back and studied the man. Everything about him fit the profile except the clean dreadlocks.

            "You will have to wait till tomorrow for the judge to set bail," the chief said. "These men will have to stay here for the night."

            Nderitu didn't like the sound of that and looked to the lawyer for help. Getting out was the only thing currently on his mind. Freedom. Freedom to see Claire again. Knowing that he had something to return to made him anxious and he wasn’t used to this new feeling.

            Silas pocketed his left hand and took in a deep breath. "Some things in life are not worth risking Chief as you very well know. Not hiring a criminal defense attorney is one of them, but luckily for my clients, I am here." Silas leaned forward and pressed hard eyes on the chief. "The constitution allows the police to use a chart to see the set standard bail amounts which means, I can either give you this envelope or I can give it to the court tomorrow and get it back on my clients' release." Silas pulled out a fat envelope from his briefcase and slid it across the table. The chief hesitated, then picked it up and took a peek inside. He placed the envelope back on the table and started drumming his fingers in thought.

            Chief Karui turned to Kamandu. "How did you know I can't pay my men?"

            Kamandu sighed into the chair and leaned back. The chief was confused and that was a good thing. "You have to give me more credit than that Chief. We are The Last Mau Mau. We control towns and cities. It’s our business to know everything before we move into a town."

            "The money was stolen," the chief said firmly.

            "That's very convenient." Kamandu was enjoying himself. "You kept uninsured money in your possession instead of keeping it in the bank where it was insured. It’s a sad sob story that will not fly well with the auditors. The press will have you for dinner." Kamandu signaled Silas with a hand gesture.

            "On July 22nd," Silas said, still standing. "The Ethics and Anti-corruption detectives stormed the Nairobi Chief's office and arrested his secretary. They carried away documents, huge files and wards of cash. On the same day, the detectives held the chief as they ransacked his house. The chief claimed to be innocent."

            Nderitu saw the chief bite his lower lip. The chief had shrunk a little, suddenly playing defense.

            Silas finally sat down and nodded at Kamandu. 

            "My men and I will be working security for Mr. Clive Ferguson at the ranch," Kamandu said in a commanding voice that confirmed that the chief was no longer in charge of the meeting. "People in Amka Town have been raiding this ranch, often breaking into houses and stealing property. I understand poverty and the need to eat, because I used to be one of these people. But that stops now! Tomorrow the people will know that the white man’s ranch is protected by Mau Mau and they will either keep away or face our wrath."

            The chief frowned. "And you expect me to go along with this impunity?"

            "We will only do the job we will be hired to do as security men, and tresspassers will be prosecuted." Kamandu motioned to the lawyer and Silas pulled out two fat envelopes and placed them on the desk.

            "That's your men's salary for this month," Kamandu said and paused to watch the chief digging into the enevelopes. There was a flare of excitement in the chief's eyes that made him look like a kid in a candy store.

            "We will pay your men's salaries this month and this will protect you from a government audit and give you time to clean your house. But there's one condition."

            The chief froze and looked suspicious. He pulled his hands away from the envelopes and watched Kamandu from the corner of his eye. "What's that?"

            Kamandu leaned forward. "Your henchmen, Lumumba and his men will stop harrassing the people immediately. They will collect regular taxes as the law requires, but they will not collect the mandatory bribes that have left businesses in danger of collapsing."

            The chief hesitated, torn by indecision. "My men have to eat. The people must pay for the sunctuary I provide."

            "The people are poor," Kamandu said. "Give your men wages and teach them about the dignity of an honest day's work. You have to be better than the Colonial British otherwise people will rise against you too. You will do the job you were hired to do and find a way to improve the people's lives. Create jobs and increase wages. Help them afford schools for their children and make their health care more affordable. If you treat them right, you will get something that's worth more than money."

            "And what's that?"

            "Their loyalty."

            The chief looked at war with himself. "Lumumba will not like this..."

            Silas pushed another envelope forward and this seemed to settle the issue. "For your troubles," Silas said."For your men."

            The chief took the envelope and peeked inside. He sighed and tried for a sad face. “You may not believe this, but we were once good people, my wife and I. We used to go to church every Sunday…”

            Kamandu stood up before the chief could finish the sentense. "Remember Chief. Without the people, you have no town."

            The chief looked tired. "I will talk to my men," he said, nodding his head.

            The meeting was over. Kamandu, Nderitu, and Patrick followed Silas out of the office and the chief did not try to stop them.

 

 

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