24.11.2010 29 °C
Having a new-born baby in the house has given me another reason for being grumpy in the mornings. Not just that though, sometimes the ‘system’ also makes me grumpy…’
The last week I have made it my mission to get all the documents needed that the British High Commission require for little Amelie to get her ‘baby passport.’ We need this official booklet for her to travel out of Kenya, which means we require it before our flight booked for the 24th of January next year. It may seem a long way away, but it is only about 9 weeks away, something which makes me nervous, especially considering how long things can take to process.
Additionally, once the High Commission in Nairobi have all the documents, they send them all to South Africa for processing, the passport returning in 6 weeks. And then, even before sending for processing in South Africa, all 3 of us have to show up in Nairobi for an interview (whatever for, I don’t really know). So, I knew we were already battling for time. Amelie did her part by coming on her due date, but it still didn’t give us much time to spare.
The most important document in the process is Amelie’s birth certificate. Before getting this, the birth notification from hospital has to get to the District Commissioner’s office in town.
This wasn’t straightforward, as the forms are only sent at the end of each month from the hospital, and the hospital has very strict ‘procedures’. Eventually, I spoke to the person who sent the forms to the district commissioner’s office where the birth certificates get processed. He allowed me to take the birth notification in person, giving me the contact of a guy there who would help me.
That sounded straight-forward and I thanked God for how it was working out. Next on the list, I had to get that birth certificate processed asap. The guy in the office who was called ‘Rasta’ by everyone (due to his hairstyle), told me that because I wanted the certificate pronto, it was obviously cost more money. Instead of the 150 shillings (about £1.20), it would cost 5000 shillings (£40). Knowing nothing about the way things work for a birth certificate, I agreed, handing over the cash, but asking him to make sure I get a receipt.
Rasta phoned me to tell me the birth certificate was ready the next day, which was incredible! I had told a few of my Kenyan friends about the situation of needing the birth certificate and how much it would cost. They were shocked at the price for the birth certificate and were a little suspicious. Sensing a dodgy deal, my colleague Sam said he would accompany me to pick up the certificate and claim the official receipt to make sure everything was in order.
On going to the office, the Rasta noticed me and clocked Sam as well. He produced the certificate, whereupon I insisted on the receipt. Strangely, he didn’t have it, but told us to wait, while he went to another office to pick up the receipt. On coming back, he gave me the receipt, but seemed edgy and nervous. He didn’t leave us, but was keen on speaking to Sam and told him so in Luo (the local language).
Sitting down together, Rasta talked at length with Sam in Luo. I could only pick up bits and pieces, so was only partly aware of what was going on. Incredibly, though, Rasta was confessing everything to Sam, saying that the whole thing was a scam in collusion with the man at hospital and the man who wrote the receipt from the different office.
Sitting there, I found it a pretty weird experience to be part of, I felt quite awkward and somehow sad at the situation.
It turned out that Rasta believed Sam to be a part of the Kenya Anti-Corruption team and was extremely worried about his job. He knew that we could go to his superior and explain what had taken place, costing him his job. Without any compulsion, he gave back the money. Sam told me later Rasta was so worried, he would probably have given us 4 times that amount if we had pushed him. However, Sam and I told him as Christians, we were able to forgive, only that he needs to watch what he is doing at work from now on. He never knows who he is trying to scam next…
So, that was that, face-to-face with corruption in the heart of the Kenyan government system. A corruption that rots the country and stops it from moving forward. A local newspaper reported that an adult Kenyan pays around 16 bribes a month. In fact, I understand that a significant proportion of what an average Kenyan earns goes towards bribes and paying the ‘system’. I see it most often when matatu (bus) drivers and their touts leave 100 shillings in the palm of the police (ever so subtly) when the police stop them on the road. Kenya is near the top of the most corrupt countries in the world, a fact which the newspapers attest to daily. The amount of scandals and allegations about missing money makes me angry every time I pick up the paper or watch the news. Missing money for free primary school education or missing money for maize for a needy population. How can people be so callous and greedy? Kenya is a country where 80% of the people say they are Christian. It is hard to believe, if it is true, then Christians need to start following the values of God who says: Deuteronomy 25:16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.