A few months ago, somebody told me the best way to avoid paying bribes to cops in Kenya is to be polite and waste their time, which they would rather be using to collect bribes from more cooperative people. I got the chance to try it out last week, when a cop pulled me over in Kilimani at lunchtime. The following is the abbreviated exchance, leaving out the call he took from his girfriend and attempts to gain sympathy for having a cold:
Cop: "You are displaying a duplicate insurance certificate. That is an offence in Kenya."
Me: "Oh, I'm very sorry. I just bought this car and didn't know."
Cop: "I understand, but we will have to go the police station. There will be big fine, and it will take a long time."
Me: "OK officer, no problem."
Cop: "Do you know where the Kilimani station is?"
Me: "Yes, it's just round the corner. I'll meet you there."
Cop: "Ah, no. I can't let you drive off. I will have to impound the car and we walk."
Me: "Well, jump in and I'll give you a lift. You can impound the car there."
COP CASTS FORLORN GLANCE AT OTHER, JUICY POSSIBLE BRIBES GOING PAST, BUT DECIDES TO PLAY IT OUT
Cop (IN CAR, LOOKING AT MY LICENCE, GRINS): "Ah, you have not signed your licence. That is also an offence in Kenya."
Me: "Oh, I'm sorry officer. I didn't know. We can sort it out at the station."
Cop: "That will be another fine."
Me: "No problem."
Cop: "It will be very expensive."
Me: "Fair enough."
Cop: "You are a very cooperative person."
Me: "Well, I need to have respect for the laws of Kenya and the officers who uphold them."
Cop: "The fine will be at least 5,000 shillings for each offence."
(SIGNIFICANT PAUSE, ACCOMPANIED BY EVEN-MORE SIGNIFICANT LOOK)
Me: "If that is the penalty, then I will have to pay it."
(CAR IS APPROACHING POLICE STATION, COP IS LOOKING THOROUGHLY STUMPED)
Cop: "Are you sure you want to go through all the trouble?"
Me: "The law's the law."
(SILENCE, CAR ONLY 50 METRES FROM STATION)
Cop: "I tell you what, why don't I just give you a warning this time? We can just pull this off."
(COP PULLS OFF INSURANCE STICKER, WHICH IS THE EXPIRED ONE SO COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. THE CURRENT STICKER IS PERFECTLY LEGAL)
Me: "Thank you very much officer, I appreciate your kindness."
Cop: "It is no problem. You will know next time. So, where are you going now?"
Me: "I am going to the office. Do you want me to drop you back at the junction?"
Cop: "Yes, please."
(I DROP COP OFF AT JUNCTION. HE LOOKS AT THE ONCOMING TRAFFIC, READY TO POUNCE).