I paid a bribe

Coming out of the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, I got stopped by two police officers for driving the wrong way on a one way street.

The guy threatened that I would have to go to the police station and pay 20,000 Sch ($230). The following day I would have to go to court, where I would have to pay another 50,000 Sch ($600) or go to jail.

“It’s for your safety, I am trying to protect you.”

I note that everyone drives the wrong way down this road. “No, no one ever drives that way.” Of course, someone does just as he says that and the other guy pulls his over.

He tells me to get in my car, where he has me pull all of the money out of my pockets. I have 8800 Sch ($100). “Add more.” I tell him that it is impossible for me to add more since that’s all the money in my pocket.

I’m getting slightly irate at this point and finally his partner comes along and says that he’s going to take the other guy in.

“Just get 10,000 from him and let’s take the other guy in instead.”

I protest that I only have 8800 and bark at him to just take it at let me go.

Finally, the guy lets me off and even tries to give me directions home.

Fucking Kenya.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

6 responses to “I paid a bribe”

  1. Lenny says :

    I wondered when you’d get there, peter. a friends place has just been burgled, cleaned out of all tech equipment including a hard drive with over 20 years of data and memories, his 3 year old son was asleep in the next room and they even took the mobile phone off the bedside table – they got that close. he is very shaken realising how easy it would have been to slit his throat if he had woken up. this in kampala but no different from nairobi especially when it comes to having to bribe a police officer for concocted reasons. i avoid driving as much as i can as i have no patience and would probably end up in jail for assault if stopped for a trumped up reason. i am going home when my work permit expires in december.

  2. semper says :

    In situations like this it helps to stay calm. When they threaten to bring you to the policestation, just oblige. Usually they are in for a bribe and try to scare you into giving a bribe. Be polite, ask for a receipt.

  3. Pete Larson says :


    Yeah, it’s pretty discouraging. Crime in Nairobi has gotten worse as a result of a combination of inflation, terror and a fractured political climate which encourages ethnic hatred. The police, of course, are of no use whatsoever. If somethings happens, the police are likely to shake you down for whatever the robbers left behind!

    Are you still in Kampala? I would like to get out there at some point. Still haven’t made it out there yet.

    Malawi is getting more and more attractive by the day.


  4. Lenny says :

    Hi Pete. Yes i am in Kampala though have a couple of weeks back in London in early October. Do get in touch if you manage to find time to make it. My brother who relocated back to Malawi about 10 years ago claims it is still populated by the peaceful and happy people i remember from my time there between 1955 and 1977. i guess i should go back and see for myself.

  5. Pete Larson says :

    Despite its political problems (which mostly don’t involve violence,thankfully), Malawi is still a great place to be.

    Likewise, if you ever come around to Nairobi, don’t be a stranger!

  6. Leonard Sequeira says :

    thanks Pete. probably very good advice – in fact someone here told me that when stopped, I should ask the stopper to accompany me to CPS, Central Police Station. If accepted, he said that the officer’s discomfiture would grow the closer we got until his (or her, there is no ‘fairer sex’ here) nerve would give and he would ask to be dropped off. I havent had a chance to try it yet. I did once drive past a female traffic officer trying to flag me down, me with a beaming smile listening to her receding voice as we sped past threatening to’get me’. that was fun.

    On 14 July 2014 11:24, Freewheel Burning wrote:

    > semper commented: “In situations like this it helps to stay calm. When > they threaten to bring you to the policestation, just oblige. Usually they > are in for a bribe and try to scare you into giving a bribe. Be polite, ask > for a receipt.”

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