If you lived in Kenya and you are the type that clings to your hard-earned cash till death do you part, then you must have been a guest of any of their prison cells at one time. I was not that mean but I was entertained to their ‘hospitality’ severally.
You could never escape the ubiquitous Kenyan cop, unless yours was not a ‘mkono birika’ (Kiswahili for ‘the hand of a kettle’).
If you had ‘the hand of a kettle’, it meant that your hand was ‘glued’ to your sides and you could not stretch it to give out ‘kitu kidogo’ (something small) or ‘chai’ (some tea), a euphemism for a bribe in Kenya.
As for offences, they were a dime a dozen. If your alien’s identity documents were in order, then you could be accused of looking “idle and disorderly”.
If you were innocently sitting in a ‘matatu’ taxi and produced all those documents as required, then you were a “redundant prohibited immigrant, likely to cause a breach of the peace.”
There were many others and, unless you had money to liberally throw around, there was no way of escaping the Kenyan smelly prison cells, which you shared with hard-core criminals.
I can laugh now because I could have been ‘mkono gamu’ if I had known what I know to-day. And what I know today is courtesy of a story I read last week.
It was a small story tucked away behind other more important reports and must have escaped your notice. However, it showed me how it could have been easy to break out of those dirty dungeons of Kenya.
In Canada, a report last week (March 12, 2009) described an amazing story of how, in August last year, six high-risk prisoners had broken out of a prison and walked to freedom.
The Regina Correctional Centre in the Saskatchewan province of Canada may sound like a holding facility for petty offenders, but actually the six were hardcore criminals who faced murder charges.
The amazing thing was that they used nail cutters to make good their escape! For four patient months, the prisoners chipped at steel metals and hard bricks to cut a path through the perimeter wall of the prison.
At least 87 prison warders supervised the unit but, during those four months, they never suspected a thing. All they were able to see were inmates playing cards at a table, in the prison compound.
What they didn’t know was that the table had been carefully positioned to block the view of the warders. Meanwhile, the six prisoners used their nail clippers to cut through a heating grill and a steel plate, before winning access to a brick exterior wall.
They made a hole through the brick wall, using a shower rod, and used braided blankets and bed sheets to scale the wall of the compound and escape. They were later recaptured, but that was Canada, not Kenya.
The story reminded me of the great escape of Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba in 1944. Wetzler and Vrba are Jews and are probably the only ones to escape from the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust (Genocide against Jews).
Auschwitz I, constructed in 1940, was the most impregnable killing concentration camp, where Jews were gassed and treated to many humiliating forms of slaughter. It was thought that even if anybody managed to escape, the harsh winter outside would kill them.
However, the two men were ready to try anything. At 2 p.m. on 7th April, a day we remember the ghastly handiwork of the killing demons of Rwanda, the two men climbed into a hollow in a pile of wood stored there to build another section of the camp.
They sprinkled the area with pungent Russian tobacco soaked in gasoline, so as to fool the guards’ dogs. To avoid recapture, the two men remained in hiding for four days and nights, before venturing out to walk 133 km towards the Polish-Slovakia border, using a page from a child’s atlas to guide them.
The Vrba-Wetzler report, which gave construction details of gas chambers, crematoriums and the Zyklon gas used, enabled the Allied forces to locate areas for bombing. As a result, 120,000 Jews were saved when Nazi officials were killed in the bombings.
Looking at what the two Jews had to endure, Kenyan prisons would have been a walk-over for me!