OMG…I’m at the Police station!

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Time check: 5.30 a.m. My phone alarm goes off. I open my eyes, drag the phone out from under my pillow(it’s always under the pillow or down on the floor when I wake up) and put it on “snooze” mode. Sighing, I stretch my limbs, pull the duvet closer to my chin,plop my head on the pillow and drift back to sleep.

Boom, boom, boom,” I hear a loud thud on the door.

Oh craaappppp, it’s morning already!” I think to myself.

It’s the same routine everyday. I wake up, switch off my alarm and go back to bed. Minutes later, either my mother or my brother will come knocking on my door. All hell then breaks loose. My mother, tired of my morning habits will proceed to tell me how selfish I am and how I’ll make my siblings late for work. My brother, sister and I use the same car to work every morning.

I get their point. I really do. But I am not really a morning person. And it doesn’t help that I take the longest time in the bathroom. My shower time is usually punctuated by singing and an arduous delay that makes brother dearest(Jordan) and the tough talking sister(Miriam) to almost tear out their hair in frustration(Jordan’s head is bald but you get the drift 🙂 ). Many a time, they have threatened to leave me home. Now that my sister moved out to her own place, Jordan and I have to be more diligent with time as she has vowed to drive off without us if we are not ready to leave home by 6.30 a.m everyday. Never mind that  her apartment is just next door.

Yesterday, they carried out their threat. After my usual struggles to get out of bed, my brother dressed up and sat in the living room to wait for me. Taking my time as usual(by the way, I am a remorseful sinner in this regard), I then thought of how lovely it would be to make scrambled eggs with vegetables and diced potatoes for my lunch.

Time check: 6.00 a.m.

I lit the gas stove, peeled a few potatoes and diced green beans, carrots and onions, got two eggs from the tray and whisked them together with the vegetables. Jordan was in shock.

“Like seriously?” he asked as he shook his head in disbelief.

He grabbed his phone and keys and stormed out. In the compound next door, I heard the rev of an engine. Surely, it was my siblings. They had left me. I didn’t blame them. However, I didn’t want to have a double loss. I whipped up my meal, packed it in a food flask, got my handbag and left after a few minutes.

Anyone who lives in the Kireka, Bweyogerere, Naalya, Namugongo, Kiira, Seeta, Mukono area knows that it is almost suicidal to leave home after 6.30 a.m in the morning. As expected,the traffic was backed out for almost 4 kilometers from Kireka to Spear Motors. Imagine my horror. I did not like the prospect of being stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours. So I did what I thought was best at that hour. I hopped onto a boda-boda(Note: they are reckless motorcycles plying our traffic routes). It was a tough balancing act as the boda-boda weaved its way through the maze of cars stuck in jam. A few times, I brushed against side mirrors and car guards. I whispered to God to keep me alive till I got to Spear Motors junction. Amazingly, I by-passed my siblings who were in the thick of the traffic in the Kyambogo area. Talk about ironic situations!

I did get to the junction but my hair, backpack and food flask were soiled with dust and dirt. Well done boda-boda man(sarcastic eye-roll! 😦 ). I got a pack of wet wipes out of my bag and cleaned my shoes, and the casing of the food flask. I dusted the back pack and made a mental note to have my hair washed at the saloon near my work place later in the day.  I got all my stuff and got into a taxi to Ntinda. I was relieved to get to work in one piece and on time. Among the “few” things I do at work are social media management,profile interviews for publication, blogging and lots and lots of writing.

Something else was added to my plate. Since last week, I’ve been doing radio stories for my workplace’s daily news digest. The bulletins air on over 50 radio stations within Uganda. Yesterday, I was doing a story on boda-boda crime in the country and so I needed a police source to give me statistics and more information about the topic I was covering. But like all Ugandan technocrats, the top brass that I called turned down my proposals for interviews. I guess when you’re in their positions you grow weary of media presence(*eye-roll* Le sigh).  So I turned my guns to the smaller fish. Armed with a recorder and a microphone, I headed out to interview the in-charge of a near-by Police Station.

The Police station was nothing to write home about. Dirty, torn leather sofas lay sprawled in front of the run-down building. Comprising of four tiny rooms and a jail cell attached to the building, the paint peeled off in layers. Rusty iron-sheets covered the weather beaten house. A few relatives were speaking to their kinsmen holed up behind bars. The incarcerated men peeked out through the metallic iron bars crusted above the jail door. A woman, distressed by the sight of her beloved, sat herself down outside the door and started wailing while pounding her fist on the rough concrete veranda.

I felt suffocated already. Looking around for the inquiries desk, I spotted a room to the side of the building that had a black sign with white engraved letters reading, “ENQUIRIES.” I climbed up the four cracked stairs leading to it and got in. Eight men sat on two long benches placed side by side. A plain clothes police officer sat at a wooden desk atop which lay a large book frayed on the edges. The yellow pages showed the wear and tear of years of scribbling and constant flipping of pages. The police officer yelled at the suspect being accused by the eight men seated. The suspect was a tall, dark, lanky young man. The law had caught up with him and here he was trying to convince all the concerned parties that he was innocent. Laughing, he waved his arms in the air as he kept repeating his plea of innocence. Obviously frustrated with his denials, the plain clothes officer decided they would put him in the cell as they sorted out the case. The suspect had deserted a security firm and made off with a rifle, the company uniforms and three of his colleagues’ phones. These items were in a green plastic bag on the floor. A yellow gooey liquid dripped from it. Disgusted, the police officer asked the suspect to clean the liquid off the floor. The slimy liquid now spread all over the floor. One of the complainants insinuated that they were broken turkey eggs.

You man, are you a witch doctor?” the police officer asked in horror, his face twitched as if in agony.

All of us in the waiting room burst out laughing.

Superstitious Ugandans!” I thought to myself, shaking my head in amusement.

Yanga mani (young man), but I have just mopped this floor. You remove that gasiya (rubbish),” he said.

The suspect got one of his shirts from the plastic bag and wiped the floor. Picking up the moist cloth, he stuffed it back in the plastic bag.

I rubbed my nose in disgust. The already stuffy room became even less bearable. The stench from the suspect’s plastic bag was almost as damaging to the nostrils as decomposing rubbish at a waste site. I pinched my nose to avoid inhaling the toxic scent.

The police officer noticed our discomfort. He asked the suspect to remove his shoes and personal effects. These were stored away behind a counter and the now barefooted suspect was led away from the room. The police officer was holding the suspect’s trousers with his hands placed on the belt buckle.

The officer came back after less than five minutes and mentioned to the plaintiffs that they should come back the next day. The suspect was going to be in custody for 24 hours.

Eh, but boys of today like to steal,” another police man with a rifle strapped on to his shoulders said. He had just walked into the Inquiries room to exchange a few pleasantries with the plain clothes officer.

Yes madam. What is the problem? How can I help you?” the plain clothes officer asked me.

Finally, he’s noticed my presence in this room,” I thought to myself.

I had been sitting there for almost 30 minutes by that time. He had been so enamored by the gooey-turkey-egg guy that he’d forgotten that some of us were there waiting to speak with him. The good thing was that I had called the person that I needed to see prior to my showing up at the Inquiries desk.

I would like to speak with the Officer-in-charge,” I told him.

Eh, what do you want to tell him?” he asked.

It’s official. He is expecting me,” I said.

Eeeehhh. Okay. You sit there and wait for him. He is in a meeting,” the police officer said pompously as he flipped through the gigantic book on his desk.

Duh! I’ve been sitting here for the past one hour,” I thought, my face creasing with frown lines.

Bored waiting for my news source(the officer-in-charge), I turned my phone on and got online to distract myself from the smelly, depressing environs.

On the bench next to me was a young man of about 32 years. He had come to file a case of fraud against a furniture dealer. In November 2014, the young man had paid the furniture dealer who goes by the moniker, “Afaayo” a handsome sum of money to make for him a 7-seater sofa set. The young man wanted to take the sofa set to his mother-in-law on his traditional wedding, the “kwanjula” ceremony that was slated to take place on Valentine’s day. Four days to the D-day, Afaayo had not made the sofa. A dodgy character, Afaayo(who was also around) said he was hard up on cash and he had used the money the young man had paid.

“You man, you want to kulemesa(frustrate) your friend’s marriage?” the plain clothes officer asked Afaayo.

Yii bambi, munsonyuwe(forgive me),” Afaayo begged.

The young man had no kind words for Afaayo. He said he would not leave the police station until Afaayo had written and signed a document saying he would pay the money within 48 hours. The police man drafted the letter and Afaayo put ink to paper. The young man, seemingly satisfied, told the officers that he would be back the next day if Afaayo did not come through on his promise. The aggrieved young man and Afaayo then left as Afaayo swore that he would refund the young man’s one and a half million shillings the next day. After they walked out, a deadly silence fell upon the room. One of the policemen walked out to get some fresh air while the plain clothes officer buried his head in his paperwork. I drifted into a day dream as I scrolled through my phone contact list.

I was jolted out of my reverie by the unmistakable tough talk of a Mukiga man. I knew it was a Mukiga because c’mon, we can tell an angry Mukiga from 500 kilometers away. In a raised, high pitched voice, he hurled abuses and jeered loudly. Protesting against the charges leveled at him, he mentioned that as a son of Kabale, he could not do something as despicable as what he was being accused of.

The officer with the rifle had dragged him into the room and ordered him to remove his shoes, socks,other personal effects and to hand them over to the boisterous plain clothes officer.

I didi nont do yit (I did not do it),” Mukiga man argued.

Hearing the commotion, I switched off the phone and turned my attention to the unfolding drama.

You koro her for me (You call her for me),” he told the rifle-clasping officer.

The rifle holding officer went back outside and came back with a heavily pregnant young woman into the room. A skinny, short-haired woman, she had bloodshot eyes. She avoided the gaze of Mukiga man as she sat on the bench next to me.

“What is the problem exactly?” rifle-holding officer asked.

“My brother sent me mobile money on my phone from Kabale yesterday. I went to a mobile money agent to withdraw it, came back home and put it in my handbag. This morning, when I checked my bag, it was gone. I am sure my husband here stole it,” she finished.

She turned her head away. Her back was now turned to Mukiga man, who we all gathered was her husband.

“Why would I take my wife’s money? This woman just doesn’t know what she wants. Sincerely how can you bring me to Police saying I stole your money? It’s okay. I will give you your money but when you go home, pack your things and leave my house,” Mukiga man said bitterly.

His face was contorted in pain.

Eiiii, yamawe!” he exclaimed- visibly in disbelief at his wife’s accusation.

“But you people, this is a family dispute. You shouldn’t be wasting our time with such trivial matters,” the plain clothes officer said, very irritated by this drama.

Ssebo (sir/gentleman), give her the money and you leave my office. This is just nonsense,” the rifle-holding police man said.

“But I only have 20,000 shillings officer. Let me call my friend to bring the money and I give it to her,” Mukiga man told the police officer.

The police men handed Mukiga man back his personal items. He got his phone and called his friend-who it turned out is a boda-boda rider in the neighborhood of the police station.

Superman(the boda-boda rider) came to his friend’s rescue; draped in a dusty jacket, cracked helmet and oversize bell-bottom pants. He was quite the sight. Trying very hard to stifle my laughter, I turned my head away and pretended to read posters about terrorism that were pinned on the walls.

Superman opened his wallet and pulled out a crisp, new 50,000 shilling note. He handed it over to the plain clothes officer. The officer, agitated by the childish display of marital squabbles, motioned for the woman to pick the money. She went over to his desk and he put the note in her hand.

She muttered some unintelligible gibberish, picked her bag from the bench and walked out.

Shell shocked, Superman(boda-boda guy) helped Mukiga man to his feet as they made their way out of the room.

Another couple walked in with a curly haired little girl as the two men made their retreat. The plain clothes officer motioned for me to get up and follow him at this point. The in-charge was done with his meeting.

I went in to the in-charge’s office and did a speedy interview. The news bulletin was supposed to be compiled by midday. It was already 11.30 a.m and I was running extremely late. Packing up my equipment, I thanked the in-charge for his time and practically flew out of the office. I needed to flag down a boda-boda(motorcyclist) ASAP if I was to have any chance of having the story aired that day.

I saw one riding past the station and motioned for it to stop.

It was Superman! On another day, I would have interviewed him as I sat behind him on the boda-boda. The drama involving his friend and his friend’s pregnant wife would have made for a novel story. However, I did not have the luxury of time this day. Urging him to ride faster, my mind raced to how my narration script would look like and what part of the news source’s audio I needed to edit out.

I got back to office and started work immediately on the news story. But I couldn’t forget how much drama I’d witnessed at the police station. I wonder how police men/women deal with all the bizarre cases they encounter!

Till next time, stay out of trouble. You don’t want me to find you at the Police station- your shenanigans may end up on these pages! 🙂

Blessings!

Sarah

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