Soon after the violence in 2007 erupted, our home area was placed under curfew. In one particular day, I got out late after things ran into each other and before I realized it, it was dark already. There wasn’t actually any fighting and violence but we were under curfew in any case. I was sure nothing bad would happen because the only people I was guaranteed to run into were cops. It was dark already, less activities by criminals due to high police presence.
Matatus and taxis were not working so I had to walk. It wasn’t a large distance anyway so I was comfortable. Night is actually fulfilling. Silent, listening to nothing but the breath of the earth. Fresh chance to organize one’s thoughts.
Two minutes later, I am stopped by police in a patrol car.
“Who goes there?” they ask.
“Nobody, I am just passing through.” A beam of light hit my face as I said the words. Damn it! I nearly shouted. What was the deal with them?
“That is clearly somebody, kuja hapa!”
There were four of them. Smoking. They weren’t actually in patrol.
I explained to them the reason of my being out at seven o’clock yet all were to be indoors by six o’clock and they promised me they understood me well and saw nothing wrong with missing out with a couple of minutes.
I was actually relieved. I thought they’d ask me for money for their evening tea or throw me ruthlessly in their Black Maria and drag me to the dungeons.
I had to go to the station though, they said. “We must make an entry to the book. If you are caught again, action will be taken. Kosa ni kurudia kosa,” one officer assured me. So I agreed. We lingered around, it was them lingering though, and waiting for other people but none was out. We drove around a 200 meter radius with their siren letting out a bleat once in a while to assure citizens that “Big Brother” was watching then drove to the station.
Two cops sat in the back with me while two sat in front. One driving the other listening over police frequencies and checking out with other cops on patrol.
It was eight o’clock.
The two with me were Officer Mulema and Officer Josh, I was sure it couldn’t be his name but it was what he told me anyway. Perhaps he was Joshua, Joseph, Josephat or even Josh. It wasn’t particularly important at that time. We chatted and got comfortable with each other even laughing together.
We eventually got to the station and my name and details were booked in a quite big book peppered with discolorations thanks to its own ageing process.
I asked to be excused in order to rush home as mother must be terribly worried. I was 19 then. Without a phone. Mobile phones weren’t as prevalent then as today.
“Don’t stress over it, tumekujia pesa ya mafuta ndio turudi patrol. We will escort you to your home and leave you at the gate,” Mr. Josh assured me.
Well, picture that. Arriving at home with a squad of police cars, who wouldn’t want that. If only it was daytime.
So I sat with them, glugged the tea they offered and listened to their stories of the new suspects they had in the cells and who they thought would need a good beating to give the police information.
I was getting terribly nervous. It was already nine o’clock. Mother must be worried sick, I told myself.
“Okay guys, sasa kwendeni Patrol na mpeleke msichana nyumbani,” the policeman we’d found at the reporting desk said to them. They finished with their tea and we got going. Still four of us. Their guns had been oiled while we were drinking tea and they entered in the books the type of gun and number of bullets each took.
We got going.
The car now smelled of nothing save oil and metal. I hated especially the guns which they comfortably toyed with dangerously fingering the trigger once in a while.
“Sasa wewe madam, tufikishe wewe wapi?” the driver asked.
“Hapo tu mbele. Past duka ya Paul.” We were about two blocks from home. Finally.
“Josh, si uko fiti na hapa?” the one on the radio asked. Josh replied by banging on the rib of the truck.
The car came to a halt.
“Njeri,” he started, “ulisema unaitwa Njeri?” Nod. “Lemme take a leak kwanza. Nakuja.” He soon alighted and Mulema seemed to remember he also wanted to take a piss and got out.
The doors opened and crushed shut. I was the only one in the car.
What if somebody torched the car? What if a rowdy crowd suddenly came off nowhere and stoned it? Or stole the damn car?
“I hope hatujakaa sana?” the cop that monitored the radio said as he climbed aboard.
“No. Haina shida.” It was a relief that somebody actually came.
He kept coming closer.
The closer he came.
Even closer past the arm’s length recommended for personal space. God, he was awfully close.
“Hey! What are you doing?!” I shouted as he suddenly took me by my wrists and geuza’d me the other way. Cold cuffs clamped my hands together. “Afisa please please, I have done nothing wrong.” I tried pleading. The others soon joined the party.
A gun glued itself to my head and all sorts of threats rang out. Josh was there too. Al the laughs, stories…. It was his gun.
My trouser was ripped apart as I was forcefully made to stand on my knees and my legs spread apart.
One after the other.
They came to me.
It was past midnight when they delivered me home. My clothes were torn, blood all over what little clothing was left.
My breasts bruised along with legs.
My memory was scarred. I was destroyed.
I had been a virgin then.
In one night, every bit of me was destroyed. My private and sexual parts. My psychology. I died that night.
My mother was devastated. But “we cannot report it. Who do we tell?” she had said. We didn’t even quite know their names properly.
There was nothing like IPOA then.
The coppers were always around. Harassing us and reminding that if any word came out, we would be killed. We couldn’t move out of the neighborhood. Staying itself was hell. It was the Devil come to haunt whatever bit of soul was left.
My boyfriend was also harassed and thrown to jail for being seen with me.
I was devastated.
In one night, I had changed from being a human being to a statistic.