F*** the police

A while back, I saw this Twitter thread by Sham on how we could come together and do something for the Kenya Police and specifically, the Parklands police station that had hosted him a couple of days earlier. The good-natured me was almost moved to joining that noble cause. Only that then, I was going through enough struggles of my own. I had just quit my previous job and was hunting for another.

Today, I am actually glad that I did not get the time to help Sham and everyone else in that cause because I would be regretting it right now.

Some time back, for no reason at all, I was arrested, a couple of blocks from where I stay and I ended up being locked up in the worst place I have ever been in since I left Maseno School because, terrible as they might be, the dingy cells at Parklands police station are no match to the dreaded Mogadishu quarters in Archbishop Olang’s house.

I had had an eventful day at work. I can’t remember exactly what I was working on that day but I just remember it being a good day. For heaven’s sake I had worn my favourite pair of shoes to work and made sure to pair them with a matching pair of pants, shirt and even belt, the second time in as many days that I was actually doing so. Those who know me will tell you that that is as rare as Venus blocking the sun’s rays from reaching the Earth.

However, as fate would have it, no amount of good grooming was going to prevent whatever lay ahead of me from happening. Just as I made the final turn and was just a few gates from putting down my laptop and starting yet another episode of V. M. Varga’s rants in Fargo, someone I had never seen before stopped me.

Having just lost my previous work machine a few weeks earlier under mysterious circumstances, my initial instinct was that this was a thief. In fact, had he not thrown cuffs onto my hands over the engulfing next few seconds, I would’ve ended up in court the following day with a charge sheet that read something like “resisting arrest and assaulting a law enforcement officer”. I was going to kick him hard and run as fast as I could. I thought he was a thief.

There I was, with my laptop bag strapped on my back stopped in the middle of a busy road by a stranger. “Kijana unatoka wapi?” I can’t forget those words, uttered with a faint Somali accent, that reeked of utmost condescension. Up to that point, it hadn’t hit me that I had been stopped by a police officer. The man, probably in his early 30s, never made any attempt to identify himself. He did not have any police uniform or a badge. Nothing.

Being a few minutes to 8PM, I was, somehow, magically, expected to deduce that he’s a police officer. Yeah, because I am an all-knowing robot.

I hesitated to answer his question in full. Before I could finish saying “I am from work,” I had already been handcuffed to another riffraff they had picked earlier.

For the first time ever, what I was used to reading in books and seeing on television was happening to me.

All the while, no one communicated anything to me. No one asked for my identification documents or asked any questions. I was under arrest for God-knows-what. Wow. The officer who had arrested me, in fact, left us on the side of the road and went to harass other passers by. It was about 7.40PM on a cold Tuesday.

I remember telling the officer that I was just a few blocks from where I stay and his response was the kind of humour I am used to LOLing to on Twitter. “Tutakuonyesha mahali mzuri zaidi ya kulala.” The nerve!

None of the officers (he had a colleague or more accurately, an accomplice) would say another thing until the navy blue Parklands police station Toyota Land Cruiser would arrive half an hour later and whisk us (by that time there were five of us) away to a destination none of us had anticipated.

When we got to the Parklands police station is when the real intentions of our arrest were revealed. The mean-looking officer who hadn’t taken a second before putting cuffs on my hands asked me carelessly if I had any cash with me. Uuum, cash for what? I did not ask him that, of course because by that time I was already more mad than I’ll probably ever be this year and also because I dreaded being assaulted. I had just seen the same officer thoroughly beat a tipsy man he had rounded up. I told him I had no money and that I had already called for help so I was okay sitting tight until help arrived.

Since I did not have any money, that meant that I was useless to the police officer who had arrested me. I was quickly ordered to remove one shoe, surrender my valuables – my laptop bag containing, well, a laptop, its charger, my prized pair of aging plastic Sony headsets, several portable chargers, 4 smartphones, 3 external hard disk drives and some coins – and thrown into the nearby male cells.

Inside those cells is where I came face to face with the impunity with which the police operate. There were scores of young men arrested earlier on under circumstances similar to mine who had no money to bribe their way out and no one to call to come and pay for their freedom. The entire place was terrible. The pungent smell as a result of the urine that seemed to be in just about every inch of that cell’s floor is one that won’t be leaving me any time soon. As is the obscene graffiti on those cell walls.

For the next 2 or so hours, the graffiti on those walls would be my hallowed Bible app as I read inspirational messages, Bible verses, song lyrics, some of the illest pickup lines I have ever come across, constitutional clauses and insults. There were many of the latter. Too bad I never got to see even a single Tyrion Lannister or any Game of Thrones-related quote for that matter.

Was I the first Westeros and Essos fan to spend time behind those filthy white-turned-cream walls?

“Chenze!” It was the officer on night duty at the front desk calling my name. Help had finally arrived.

Help came a few minutes after 10PM.

I looked at the wall that I had spent the last two hours of my life leaning on since I just couldn’t bring myself to sit on that damn floor to stare, for one last time, at the sight of a drawing of a beautiful woman, never mind that it appeared that the artist had either run out of ink before completing her forehead or been knocked senseless by one of the cell bullies or, like in my case at that moment, seen freedom.

I was made to clean the Parklands police station reception area, which is no better than the kibanda where I buy groceries in Ngara, before being let go.

The beauty of working with the amazing people that I work with is that the police can’t get away with the sort of impunity they are used to getting away with without an explanation. I had notified my colleagues of my arrest and the boss had taken charge of the situation, calling to ask why I was being held and what charges were being brought against me. Idling/loitering, he was told. Yes, it is illegal to get home from work in this Nairobi of theirs, unless, of course, you are willing to part with anything upwards of Kshs 2,000 to secure the freedom that the constitution of Kenya gives you for free.

I was let go without paying even a shilling, something that must’ve infuriated the officer who had arrested me who was nowhere in sight at that time when he found out later. He’d probably already calculated my “dues” to him as part of his nyama choma budget for the following day together with his colleagues. What I was supposed to pay for, again?

This is not the first time I am hearing of this. This happens daily in Nairobi and in other parts of the country.

Previously, when investigative series like the recently-concluded Inspector Fisi series on KTN would show police officers in a bad light, I would sympathize with them and the tough conditions they operate in and probably blame their actions on the system and everything else but them. Not anymore. What have 19-year-old Architecture students going to study at their college in the evening got to do with your low salary? What has an innocent Kenyan just from the supermarket at 7PM got to do with your frustrations at work?

That night, I did not get to watch Mr Stussy sink further into the hole that Mr Varga had dug for him but I did get to learn one valuable life lesson, fuck the police!

 

Next

I don’t know how you came to know about me or my activities online but there is a huge chance that it was thanks to this thing called Android.

I have, over the last 6 years, pretty much indulged in everything there is to know about the world’s most popular operating system. I have written hundreds (maybe a few thousand?) of articles and blog posts about it scattered across many platforms on the web.

To just show you how much I was really sure that I wanted to write about Android, I went on a blog registration spree between late 2010 and early 2011 where I tried to “own” anything and everything I thought I would be needing once I had made up my mind what to call my Android passion blog.

Of course, things happened and I wound up with emmanuelchenze.com, a portfolio site that I ended up using primarily as a blog for quite some time. It had a good run. Nominated for the annual Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) awards twice, finishing as a first runner-up once (a campus kid’s 3 hours a day obsession beaten by a Pan African tech news site with a wide readership) and making it to Alexa’s top 200 websites in Kenya ranking (back when that really meant something) on a number of occasions. I have had my fair share of encouraging emails and person-to-person comments from early readers/followers of that “scrappy” blog.

Then I slacked, a bit. Mid-undergraduate school happened. Lots of activities (Google’s student ambassadorial program), trips, CATs and, wait for it, money, happened too. It is around that time that I also volunteered to be contributing to techweez.com and boy, did I have a good run! The blog was pretty much abandoned in the process and lived off referral traffic.

At techweez.com, I covered pretty much everything that, thanks to my background in tech, was remotely related to tech and I took (still do) great pride in that.

Deep down, I’ve always been that guy who’s always believed in telling Android stories no matter what and, while I have always had a home over at XDA Developers where I have contributed so much since 2011, I’ve always entertained the idea of converging all of that in one easy-to-manage place (my XDA page is not about to get cobwebs, I’ll still be very active. Since I use a pseudonym and my common/known username is all but there for SEO purposes, good luck finding me).

That’s why in February last year, while I was still mourning my late mother, I registered androidportalke.com because I never had any hopes of ever getting the domain I actually wanted, androidkenya.com. For all intent and purposes, that home/place was poised to be androidportalke.com until I consulted a few friends who were really for androidkenya.com and urged me on. So for a year, androidportalke.com remained parked and there wasn’t much happening to it. Until renewal time came in February and my registrar was breathing down my neck with reminder emails every 5 minutes (ok, it wasn’t that bad but you get it). I looked up androidkenya.com and voila! It was available. It took me I think 4 seconds to get it. There wasn’t even an extra second to think things over. It took me another hour before I slept the following early morning to put everything together. Easy.

For the next I-don’t-know-how-many-days, androidkenya.com will be that “one easy-to-manage place.”

Even though I never believed or thought that it was necessary, I quit techweez.com at the end of February just so that I could be able to pursue my Android love and passions on androidkenya.com without any perceived conflict of interest and stuff.

So that means I’ll have more time to eat, drink, breathe and sleep Android, right? Wrong.

AndroidKenya.com is a hobby. Pretty much like my self-imposed 2-books-a-month routine, androidkenya.com will be something I look at when I have nothing else to look at. That means if I find myself idle at 10AM, I’ll be there. 4PM? I’ll be there. 1AM just before I give in to the mosquitoes? I’ll be there. I just have to make sure my strict 2-books-a-month routine is not disrupted because that is more important.

Interest in androidkenya.com has so far been overwhelming even when just a handful of friends and other interested parties have been aware of its existence. I’ve maxed out bandwidth once already even before I’ve had the time to tell everyone I know, “hey, go check my new site” or spam everyone’s Facebook and WhatsApp with links to it.

What can you expect going forward? Maybe a post or two every day. Or just one per week. It’s all dependent on how busy/idle I am. There are no commitments to anything. There will be the occasional news item on anything interesting happening in the local space related to Android (the site has to live up to its name, after all), the occasional long (and boring) review on anything as interesting as an Android TV module to something as dull as the latest smartphone from Chinese brand X (I just need to find a job that allows me to buy all this stuff without thinking twice) or an updated icon of an Android app I really like (you have a problem if you find such interesting). It’s all dependent on a lot of factors that I may have already foreseen or not. My naivety, after all, has shown me a lot these last few days.

It will be tough but I plan to do it. It’s been 6–7 years in the making and everything just starts with one small step. So join me. If you can, follow Android Kenya wherever it has a presence on the web and let’s see how this pet experiment turns out. It might as well be stopped in its tracks next week for all I know. I may not be able to raise more cash to fund another extra bandwidth allocation.

Android’s best days as a platform are still way ahead of it. While many believe that we have reached peak smartphone and there are enough signs that tablets will never recover from their big fall from grace, there’s AR, VR (and their intersection, MR), Android Things, Android Enterprise, Android Wear, Android Auto, Android TV and many more to explore. Things are just getting started, just like androidkenya.com is.