This is the case of the little man who went to jail for telling a big man to take a hike.

Meria

Chief Lister
Staff member
By Blaine Harden
June 17, 1988

NAIROBI, KENYA --

The case exemplifies a common clash in much of Africa between the rule of law, as written in books, and the rule of pure power, as wielded by big men.

It started at 7:30 a.m. a week ago on a roadside in the highlands of western Kenya. Provincial Commissioner Mohammed Yusuf Haji had car trouble. He flagged down electrician Peter Makau, who was driving to work in a company pickup truck.

When the big man asked for a ride, the little man, according to a police affidavit, said, "Go and find a government of Kenya vehicle. My car is not a government vehicle."

He then drove off to a nearby job site, leaving the provincial commissioner to fend for himself.

Haji, the most important government official in that part of Kenya, a presidential appointee with powers similar to that of a state governor in the United States, fended his way to a police station.


Within hours, the electrician was found and arrested. The next day he was sentenced to three months in jail.

"The accused behaved in a very unsocial manner," said the sentencing magistrate, who was recently appointed to her job on a recommendation from Haji. "Government officials deserve respect. The accused lacked respect, . . . {and a} deterrent sentence should be meted out as a lesson to those with such mind and unbecoming behavior."

No mention was made in court that there is no law in Kenya requiring people in cars to give rides to pedestrians who claim to be important. Nor did the court learn that the company for which Makau works forbids its employees to give rides to hitchhikers.

When the "PC lift case" hit the local newspapers, a delegation from the Law Society of Kenya went to the country's attorney general to complain.


"We told him that if the facts of the case are as presented in the press -- that a man was convicted for refusing to give the PC a lift -- then the attorney general should come out publicly and say no offense was committed," said Joe Okwach, president of the Law Society, the Kenyan equivalent of the American Bar Association.

"We told the attorney general he should say it was an improper conviction and put peoples' minds to rest," Okwach said.

The reasoning of the Law Society did not sit well with President Daniel arap Moi, who controls virtually all police and political power in this country.

Moi warned the lawyers Tuesday that they should desist from making statements that could confuse the wananchi, a Swahili expression for the man in the street.

"If I were the attorney general I would have had them {the lawyers} arrested and charged with contempt of court," Moi said.


According to the government-owned Kenya Times, Moi also said that "certain lawyers in the country are agents of enemies of the country, such as Amnesty International."

Last year, the London-based human rights organization issued a report charging that Kenyan police had tortured political detainees to obtain confessions. At the time, a number of local lawyers were accused by the government of feeding information to Amnesty International.

In his denunciation of the lawyers, the president said he had faith in Kenya's courts, which he said deliberate "without fear or favor."

In Kenya and across Africa, there are many legal scholars and political scientists who do not share Moi's faith in the impartiality of the judicial system.

They have coined terms such as "kleptocracy" and the "paternalistic state" to describe this and other African countries, such as Zaire, Ivory Coast and Malawi, where near-absolute leaders are accused of manipulating the legal system to suppress political opposition and enrich themselves.


The case of the PC who couldn't get a ride is symptomatic of an "imperious" attitude toward the law in Africa, according to Gibson Kamau Kuria, an outspoken Kenyan lawyer who specializes in human rights cases. Kuria was detained for more than six months last year after he sued the government for allegedly torturing political dissidents.

"The PC's action against the person who refused to give him a lift says that there must be a law that permits one in authority to do what he likes," said Kuria. "One can see the subsequent official comments as a reaffirmation of that theory of law."

Makau, 36, the electrician who drove into trouble last week, was released Tuesday on $58 bail.

His employer, a Nairobi-based contracting firm called Soma Industries, posted the bond and retained an attorney. The attorney said he is working on an appeal. Lawyer Salim Machio said his client cannot have violated a law that does not exist.


A supervisor at Soma Industries suggested a possible reason why the electrician was unwilling to take time to give the provincial commissioner a ride.

The electrician, the supervisor said, was working on an important government job -- installation of a large cooking and refrigeration system at one of the several official residences of Kenya's president.

Yusuf-Haji-undercoverafrica.com_-1.jpg

 

Nefertities

Chief Lister
Wah! Kumbe it happened in 1988? That explains alot. When I saw this newsbyte yesterday, I was wondering how something like that could be allowed to happen in this day and age when the words "human rights" are always hanging off the lips of everyone.
 

Meria

Chief Lister
Staff member
Wah! Kumbe it happened in 1988? That explains alot. When I saw this newsbyte yesterday, I was wondering how something like that could be allowed to happen in this day and age when the words "human rights" are always hanging off the lips of everyone.
wonder where that Makau driver is now, sholud be 68yrs old today
 

Kamau wa Kíríro

Elder Lister
Wueh!! Tumetoka mbali.... Another story I remember of Haji is to force a primary school headmaster to shave off his goatee.. Several years later, when he was about to retire, in an interview with a Daily Nation reporter, he was asked what he was looking forward to after retirement. Guess what? The first thing he was looking forward to was growing a beard which was not permitted in the provincial administration.....
 

upepo

Chief Lister
Wueh!! Tumetoka mbali.... Another story I remember of Haji is to force a primary school headmaster to shave off his goatee.. Several years later, when he was about to retire, in an interview with a Daily Nation reporter, he was asked what he was looking forward to after retirement. Guess what? The first thing he was looking forward to was growing a beard which was not permitted in the provincial administration.....
Hapa umewekelea Haji. The culprit was a DC called Fred Mwango.
 

upepo

Chief Lister
Wah! Kumbe it happened in 1988? That explains alot. When I saw this newsbyte yesterday, I was wondering how something like that could be allowed to happen in this day and age when the words "human rights" are always hanging off the lips of everyone.
Human rights ni hapa Nairobi. Ukirelocate ushago utakuwa unapigana na Chief kila siku.
 

upepo

Chief Lister
Not entirely true. I live in the bush and even the white guys who own large farms around us are usually polite to everyone nowadays. They used to be complete b!tches back in the day, but not no more. Chief pia ako okay-ish. Same with the cops.
I live in a small village and almost started a small civil war with the local administration when they thought they could ask any questions they wished. Luckily, I did not have the energy, and wisdom has taught me to ignore unnecessary squabbles. I haven't forgotten though.
 

Nefertities

Chief Lister
Not entirely true. I live in the bush and even the white guys who own large farms around us are usually polite to everyone nowadays. They used to be complete b!tches back in the day, but not no more. Chief pia ako okay-ish. Same with the cops.
Note the highlighted portion.
 
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