A Muslim Mother’s Nightmare
By Najar Munyinyi
Disappearing Youth. A Muslim Mother’s Fear. It’s real… it’s real! I’ve never felt so vulnerable and afraid.
The corridor was dark. All the doors were closed shut. No light poured out from the slats above the door. It was dead quiet. I was inside the belly of #Kasarani Police Station. And that’s when I realized I was in deep trouble, and the voices in my head began to shout out real loud:-
“Girl, the Battle doesn’t belong to You, Give it over, give it over… “, and the duas and prayers began tumbling out of my mouth in silent, but urgent whispers.
My girl, my daughter, was in a cell, somewhere in Kasarani. I knew where, because she’d called me, screaming, “…come, come to Kasarani, they’re taking us to Kasarani..”, she kept saying, until the phone went off.
So I got into my little bug, and drove, blindly, manically, wondering, straight to Kasa. It was 7:33pm. I’d spoken to her earlier in the day and we had a dinner date, she was going to come home after her 7:20 lecture. Not many people know our private life, so I’m telling yo’all, I have RELATIONSHIPS with my adult offspring. We have dinner at least daily, to catch up and ‘bonga’, chit-chat, laugh and bond. Then I either drive her back to her hostel in USIU, or she takes a long moonlight walk…
So when she first called me at 6:58pm that Thursday, I honestly thought she was calling to confirm our dinner. It’s routine. It’s so fucking routine, that I simply hit the green accept button, and already had a smile on my face that was wiped out by the shriek which rent the air, “Mom come to my room now! The Cops are here, the same ones that took that guy, the Kasa Cops! They’ve come with GUNS, mom… cooommmeeeee!!!!”
I heard GUN and froze.
Then my brain went into warp speed and I put 2 n 2 together, and when it clicked, I became very very scared. The previous month, she’d reported what she thought was a strange act. On her way to class, she saw 2 men emptying the wallet of a student she knew was not of Kenyan Nationality. He was then forced into a car that drove off in yes – a cloud of dust. Terrified and concerned for the Student, she went to the USIU security and told them, hey, I’ve just seen a USIU student put in a car forcefully that then sped off. They were shocked, and knowing the caliber of students that study in USIU, told her to report to Head of Security. He wasn’t in [It was late, around 7pm..] so the Security team escorted her to Kasarani Police Station where they reported the occurrence and were given a number from the Occurrence Book.
Let me tell you something about that Occurrence Book. That BOOK is deep. It’s a deep book that records FACTS. With an OB number, you’re KING. Or QUEEN. Because your statement has become FACT. If you DON’T have an OB number from a police station you may as well be writing fiction …. Your statement doesn’t hold a drop of water. Period.
So, the unknown person was reported as “unknown male forcefully put in car reg no. XXXXXXXX, TIME: PLACE: DATE”.
Thinking no more of it, she continued with her studious life. I can see the cogs in your minds turning round about now….
Yap. Mine too. So I drove, prayers spilling silently from my mouth, phone in ear, dialing everyone I knew, I’m going to Kasa, they’ve taken my daughter, not sure what is going on, but she’s with her friends.
I got to Kasa at 8:06. Parked, rushed to the reception to find my daughter and 2 other girls being frisked by a surly, angry female plains-clothes. She kept hitting and pushing the 3 girls, shouting at them. The girls weren’t exactly silent either, shouting back in sailors language that would have made my ears pop but instead were replicated in my mind……. Like really? I stared. Mute. One by one they were body-searched, cell-phones confiscated, shoved and pushed towards the cells. But my daughters’ wild eyes calmed down a little, in relief, when she saw me. Her eyes got wetter, she said, “Mom”, in a little girls voice, then turned to her friends and said, “It’s okay now, my Mom is here”.
@#@$#. Me? Sigh…. Shoved, pushed, woman-handled, the cop thrust them one by one through the door that led to the cells, then shut it with a clang. She came out to where we watus stood. I looked at the short sullen girl in front of me and asked, “..So … now what?“ She asked, “…what what? Go home… we’re keeping them for the night…”
“For what crime?” I asked. “Mama, skiza… enda numbani. Rudi kesho. Hawa wa Students watalala hapa”.
“Fine. What’s the OB number…” And she looked at me, ice-cold dark eyes; and a horrid slow smile spread on her mouth but that parody of smile didn’t get a foot near her eyes. “Ask at the desk – there..” she pointed one way, and turned around, showed me her back, walked away in the opposite direction – outside – into the cool dark night.
Standing alone. I turned towards The Desk. I was scared as fuck. Alone in Kasa, asking for the OB number because my daughter and her 4 friends were in cell, and the cops on duty were stone-faced. “Si sisi tuna-andika OB, that’s the arresting officer to do….,” I was told from behind bars at the Desk. So, where were the arresting officers? “That woman you were talking to”, I was told.
@#$%$. I went outside. She retorted rudely, “It’s not me, why are you talking to me, go talk to my boss.”
I went back to The Desk. Where’s her boss? Cute male cop looks at me and vomits the words, “Office No. 3” and points to a corridor. I walk down that-away.
The corridor was dark. All the doors were closed shut. No light poured out from the slats above the door. It was dead quiet.
I was inside the belly of #Kasarani Police Station. I couldn’t find The Boss.
OBVIOUS.. Yes, yes, I can hear you shouting it loudly in my head. I knew I wouldn’t. But how to fight the system? I tried the lock. So they wouldn’t say he was inside in the dark. The.door.was.locked. I walked back to The Desk. I asked them, politely, He’s not there. The door is shut. What do I do?
They pointed to a bench. “Kaa hapo. Subiri” Did I have a choice?
So I sat.
Commotion. Drunks walking in. Cops with guns bringing in criminals. Matatu touts, pokoz… men shouting, cops shouting louder, nyamaza! Ingia hapo! metal doors clanging shut every few minutes, people reporting stuff at The Desk… voices, loud, commotion, incessant noise. A female cop comes and stands near me…”I’m looking down, her shoes are so bright and polished… “Mama… uko kwa line?” I shake my head.. “haya, songa hapo mwisho…” I get up and move to the end. The line gets shorter and shorter. Every man that passes, I ask the cop behind The Desk with my eyes… is that the boss? He shakes his head. And the answer is No.
The line gets shorter.
Miss Sullen Cop saunters past. I rush to her. Where is the boss? I asked. She sniggered… Mama, nilikwambia, enda nyumbani…
I shake my head and went back to the bench. The line got even shorter. Then I was the only one on the bench.
I was alone.And I got very scared. So I called a ‘peoples’, do you have a ‘peoples?’ I do. You should. He makes stuff move & shake, so I called, and spoke a mothers words of fear down the line;
‘Asalaam Aleiykum… they’ve taken my daughter, but they haven’t recorded it, and they’re telling me to go home and come back tomorrow….”
“…. Sister, Don’t leave! Sit there. We’ll work on this…!!”
What happened was, a simple hash tag on Twitter was started.
And the calls began to flow in to my phone. Where is she, where are you, why hasn’t she been booked in, don’t leave, demand your rights, you CAN’T LEAVE, we’re going live on air, where are you again? What’s her name, who are you….
Let me say this. Boss showed up.
‘Wewe ndiyo mama wa huyo student USIU?’ he asked, standing infront of me but not giving me space to stand up. Intimidating tactics. No. It wasn’t going to work with me.
Yes. I stared up at him.
I followed him to his office. Some girl and a young chap behind me. I asked them, who are you, she replied, ‘Xxxxx’s cousin’.
Phew. Strength in numbers. Little did I realize they’d turn on me like a pack of hyenas.
We went into the office. The boss asked us.. who took this to the news? We looked at him blankly.
… So, we have to book them in, but you know, we didn’t have to… you could just have asked us what to do. They’re drunk and high…”, The Boss man in a Kenyan-flag cap says.
Drunk? My mind screamed, DRUNK?? MY DAUGHTER DOESN’T DRINK!!
Alarm bells began to go off in my head. My phone rang, I recognize the caller. Relief.. “…Nya, where are you? What’s happening…”
I walked out. “… with the arresting officer…. He’s head of something…. “
“…where are The Five, people are asking….”
“…in a holding cell.” I replied.
“… which station?” “Kasa”
“Chick. Are you sure? Because, no they’re not. We’ve been calling Kasa, and the answer is they are NOT there, they’re not in the OB, they’re not being held there.”
“…let me go back and listen to what the arresting officer is saying…. I’m IN Kasa, they’re here”. I hung up. Yuck! My heart. In my throat. The bloody system! No. No. They’re here. My daughter is in the holding cell. The Five cannot be just disappeared. I went back to the Boss. Found him shooing out the other two.
Wewe mama, uko kwa Social Media?
No, I took a phone-call. And my phone is almost dead. I’m not on Social media, I answered, politely, my friends yes, not me. Serene looking, mind in turmoil, I turned to The Cousin. What’s happening, I asked?
Nyinyi, rudi Front Desk! Tokeni hapo!We were shooed out to the front desk. Sat back on the bench. Time dragged. It was a hot night. I sweat under the hijab.
[My stomach growls] My phone adhan goes off. What, it’s already Isha? I felt like I’d been here for hours.
1% charge. Phone blinks irritatingly. I begin to switch my Sim card from Phone Dying to Phone Spare.
Commotion. “MOM!” I look up, The Five are out.
“Stand here! Get in single file. March. To the office!” Sullen surly female cop is barking instructions.
I notice another man. Huge. Cap on head. Looks like an aging overweight basketball player down to the jeans and upmarket sneaks.
In the commotion I slip in towards my daughter. She wants to cry, I tell her NO. She grapples for my hand, holds it tight.. “Mom, I’m scared…” she says, eyes wild. “shush” I soothe….
Heart in mouth. Mouth in Heart. Sullen and Surly, the female UC notices us holding hands, shoves my daughter. I tell her, hey, stop. But apparently, contact with prisoners ‘…isn’t allowed’.
I let go. They enter the bosses ‘office’. The door is shut on us. Wtf. I open it. Surly Cop, hostile: “Mama, ni nini?” I want to know is all, I said, I’m the mother. Cold annoyance in her eyes.Mama wa nani?
But I’ve TOLD HER.. sigh, I repeat and point “Her”
Sawa. Ingia. They relented. Then began taking fingerprints. Writing names in a book.
What are they doing??? I asked air….
“we’re TAKING FINGERPRINTS and writing the names in the OB..”
“What CRIME are you taking the fingerprints for…?”
“Mama… Una swali nyingi sana. Usijali. Si tumewashika? We’ll tell you later..”
“Umm…. No, please, tell me now”. “Why? Why do you want to know?”
“Because I’m the Mother… I have a right.” “We have arrested them. These are BAD CHILDREN. We have a right to take them off the streets”. Streets? Warning bells go off in my head again… “Streets?” I ask….baffled….”you went into my daughters ROOM in a hostel”.
“sasa Mama, fanya hivi. Wewe toka inje, tumalize hii kazi. You have too many questions, let us do our work….”
Out nii nja. Back outside on corridor. Phone rings. I fumble, grope for it. Unfamiliar number…
“Hello” “Is this Nya?… my name is DUDE and I’m with THIS.ORG and I’ve just called Kasarani Police Station and they have absolutely NO record of any USIU kids, I’m sorry, they’re not there…”
Let me say this, I had no clue who DUDE was. None. My brain was still in the office that I’d just been thrown out off, and here’s some DUDE from some ORG. telling me that my child is not in the station?
“I don’t know who the EFF you are but don’t tell me that MY DAUGHTER IS NOT HERE”, I shouted, pissed as hell, “ I’m IN Kasarani, INSIDE! INSIDE! and MY DAUGHTER had been here SINCE 8:00PM! I’M GOING TO HANG UP NOW!”
..or something like that, it could have been worse, I dunno. I was livid. I disconnected. Walked in the night air. Became calm. I went back to The Bosses office. Opened the door. They’re fingerprinting The Five. Good. I keep quiet. Miss Sullen lady cop glares at me. I stand beside the door. I’m amazed I’m NOT tired. The Five are finger printed. The three cops begin joking and laughing.
I whisper to them, don’t give up. It’s on Twitter, #FreeNoni is trending…
Sullen Lady Cop overhears, ‘..what nonsense is that, what is trending? Haha…stupid..mutalala hapa”
The Five wipe their fingers on a Skull cap [Marvin] that belongs to one of them. They’re escorted out. You can go home now, Boss says to me, We’ve booked them.
For what? I ask. Four counts. What four, I ask? Resisting arrest is one, and the other is they were caught with weed.
Fat guy hesitates….
We’ll add. You’ll WHAT? Mama, all this can go away. I look at The Cousin. I look at FG [FatGuy]. I look at Boss. I don’t bother looking at SullenChickCop.
Boss looks at the ceiling, tilts back his chair. The office is quiet. He speaks, authoritatively. “You know this is the Drugs& Narcotics office. This is a severe crime. Very. If booked for possession, you can get up to 7 years in jail and the bond for possession is 200,000. It’s not good. If they go to court, they can be expelled from school. Not only that, but even if they get a degree, they will never be employed because they dealt drugs in University”.
Yuck.…. My mind.
Potato in throat. Heart in throat.
“Is this about money, how much do you want?”, I ask, calmly.
We are going to be nice. If you give us cash now, we can release them quickly.
The Cousin asks, “Do we get a receipt?”. My head whips to look at her. Whips back to look at SullenCop.
FG speaks up. “If you give us cash now you can go home with them”. It’s a game. I’m so in. “Not 200, “ I interject, “… that’s not possible right now. ATM’s can give out up to 40k, but aki, tuko mwisho”.
They laugh. Even SullenCop laughs. I don’t crack a smile. “100” “50”. “Minimum 20” “I have 10” “Sawa, you give us 10 you go home with her now.” “Mpesa?”
“No. Cash” “I meant, where can I find an Mpesa?”“….across the road”. “My phone needs charge..” “Charge it here”.
I did. Right there on Bosses desk. While we were waiting for it to charge, they got chatty. Made jokes. The Boss said, “Mama, wewe ni mpole sana, why is your daughter so hostile?”
[Dumb yucks, you barge into her room with a gun and no warrant, you expect her to SMILE AT YOU and sing “Welcome Back” in Harmony with her bhestees? You slap her across her face with your big meaty hand and you want her to SMILE?] But I didn’t know this. Thank God.
So I just said, quietly, just know it’s impossible for my daughter to be drinking. FG says with a smirk on his face,Apana, you parents don’t know your kids.. You leave them there and you don’t know the rubbish they do..
Migraine coming. I pray to it, wait…please, don’t hit now…Sweet Brown’s gif repeats itself in my brain ‘I don’t have time for this..’
These guys had NO IDEA who my daughter was. Thought she wasn’t Kenyan, thought she drank, thought I’d leave her there, thought wrong, wrong WRONG…They had no idea what she had gone through, her battles in life, her gains, her wins, her beautiful grades, her relationships with peers, how others looked upon her as a heroine who’d won the war against alcohol and WON, her brilliant future, the fact that she comes home to mama every TUESDAY AND THURSDAY for Dinner…..
I kept quiet, and they spoke. Especially FG. He spoke shit about her. Lies. Placed her in places where it was impossible for her to be, because you see, he didn’t know I could see through the crap. I let him talk. And talk. When people throw shit you’ve gotta let it DRY. Then you flick it off. Don’t go smearing that shit when it’s wet. I guarded my heart, prayed inside. Refused to let his nasty talk sink in, I had work to do yet, I couldn’t, couldn’t break or snap, no, not yet. I kept repeating, when you get home…
My phone charged. Got to 16%. Darling Readers, I went across-the-road. The MPESA transaction is on my phone. Withdrawn from a dingy little MPESA joint across-the-road from KPStation. I cried. I was in ahijabi. It was late night. Drunk men shoving me, calling me Waria, slurring to me through rotten breath and peering through unfocused moist eyes, poking my shoulder with dirty grubby fingers that that had probably held their parts when they peeed..poking my shoulder, seemingly concerned – what was I doing out at this hour? – Luckily I was with a friend of my daughter’s, a friend who’d come all the way to the police station from across Nairobi. Unlike the phone caller, he’d insisted and barged his way through the Front Desk and had found me in Room 3. So I had a male presence. Thanks be to God. I withdrew 10K. As I received it, I got a text message from a strange phone. Message said, [We’re in the office again. Signed by my Daughter.] I received it at 11:01 pm, March 31.
I told the friend, ..’they’re back in the small room’. We got into the car, dashed back to the station with the 10K.
I could smell, taste, breathe freedom. I could see her and me, free, out of there. Back at the station, Winter had come. The Ice was everywhere. Nobody was talking. Jokes had vanished, disappeared, gone, MIA. TheCousin was abrupt, she said, we were thrown out of the room but The Five are back in there.
I tried to get in. They were being fingerprinted. AGAIN. The Boss man looked at me cold and hard, no smile. “Mama, umefanya nini? Ngoja inje!”
I went outside, to the car park, there were people in the driveway. Oh my, PEOPLE, at this hour! I wasn’t alone, they could only be the parents or guardians. But my pleasure was short lived, for there I was told, this is ‘baba so and so’. Foolishly, when I said hello. I received ice. He was cold. So cold. You’re the social media woman, he barked.
What? My mind went blank. I’ve spoken to the arresting officer in there, let me tell you, these kids should SPEND THE NIGHT in here. We come back on Saturday to remove them. Why were they drinking and making noise? I am a TEACHER, it’s so hard to teach these stupid kids nowadays. You know, they don’t care, we pay fees, we pay money, we save, take them to the best schools, they DON’T CARE!! Acha walale ndani…”
“Umm… they weren’t drinking…”, I tried to tell him. He moved away from me, his arms crossed tight across his chest. “Who are you, the POLICE say they were found with bhangi and drinking and making noise and having a fight…” he said as he walked away. Foolishly I followed…
“Who are you?” He barked, louder, he turned his back on me and faced the other parents, closing the circle and keeping me out. “They were in my daughters room, they weren’t dri…..”
“And HOW DO YOU KNOW? I tell you, I’m a teacher. NO! THEY were drinking. They should stay in THERE AND LEARN a LESSON! I HEAR THEY’RE ALL DRUNK…”
What is this nonsense, like really? Shouldn’t men protect women? I’m a parent, why is he shouting and being so hostile to me. Gaii.
Life Sucks. Then you die. Don’t ever wait for applause when you do good. Don’t.…
….. Disheartened, I drifted away to the Station and noticed The Five being escorted back to the Holding Cell. I tried to talk to them but SullenCop and the FG stopped me from addressing them with a terse, “…rudi kwa offisi”, So I went back, alone, to The Bosses office.
“I went to get money from Mpesa, I have it here, who do I pay, where do I get a receipt?”, I stated, once inside, but his demeanor had frosted over. Forget your money. What did you do? Who did you speak to?
Nobody. My phone died. I charged it on your desk so I could withdraw MPESA. Who do I give this 10K to, I want to take my daughter home.
Well, he said, Ice in his voice, you spoke to someone and this thing is ‘trending’ all over Twitter. And it’s gone to the top office. Your bad. “Your children”, he spat out bitterly, ‘… have been BOOKED! It’s YOUR FAULT that their fingerprints are now on RECORD for Cannabis. Shauri Yako! It’s your fault! You shouldn’t have gone on social media you stupid woman.. umefanya makosa sana mama, makosa kubwa sana..”
Umm… I hadn’t gone on social media, personally that is. But all #KOT did was demand #FreeNoni. Or release her. Simple. That’s it. People may de-cry #KOT, but when and if you need action in a hurry, #KOT is the fastest engine in Kenya. Period. I had NO IDEA what was going down on Twitter, all I knew is, my peeps hadn’t let me down and that this story was ALIVE.My daughter wasn’t going to disappear.
But, ask yourself, why is it a recurring habit in Kenya, that when our leaders, or people in leadership, men who are in charge of ‘things’ that ‘matter’, why is it that when some of these bullies and predators get Light shone on them, when they’re in the Spot-Light, why do they begin to say the problem is the person bearing the torch? It’s never their actions that get them in trouble, it’s always the whistleblowers fault? Why do they shout, Dim the lights like I’m driving down a highway at night with my headlights in full beam despite the oncoming cars? Why do bullies say, kwanini una ni mulika?
My phone rang. I picked it wearily. “Yes?”
“Go home now, we have the OB number, The Five have been booked. Go rest”.
I walked out of that Room, and went back to the Front Desk, and the female cop there looked at me and said, “Hongera Mama kwa subri yako. Shukran. Sasa, enda nyumbani upumzike, rudi kesho mapema. Rudi na chai ya breakfast, na nguo zao”. Mama, congratulations on your patience, go home, rest, come early tomorrow, bring them tea and their clothes.
I looked in her eyes and almost wept, she was sincere. She couldn’t tell me more, but for me it was clear, thank you for holding on, your Five are now safe, they won’t be spirited away to another place at night, you can go, you’ll find them here in the morning, not disappeared.
I walked out of the Police Station past Midnight, on the morning of All Fools Day, 1st April, 2016.
I walked out the same way I had walked in over 4 hours earlier.
It was going to be okay, for us.
I cried, and cried and cried, all the way home, and I cried when I got home, for the countless mothers in this country, in NEP and other counties, who go to the Police Stations to report their missing sons or daughters and are told, ‘….we don’t know what you’re talking about’, And I cried, for the countless mothers who are later given their children’s remains, and told, ‘…. but, they were Al’shabaab.’ Because Al Shabaab means The Youth in Arabic. And yes, they die in Al Shabaab, in their Youth. That’s a TRUTH. And we mothers cry and say yes, they died Al Shabaab. And I cried because of the men who can help us, but instead, they turn their backs on anything and everything Muslim, not realizing, the pain is Kenyan, the pain is human, the pain, is every PARENTS pain.
See you’ll soon.
Keep Safe. Be aware. We’re in Kenya guys, we’re in Kenya.