Monday, 27 January 2014

Misguided Police Vigilance


It was a day like no other when my sister and I attempted to make our way to the city center by car but had a stopover in Wandegeya where we parked briefly to wait for an individual for a brief exchange. Without leaving the car my sister met the individual for a brief meeting that took maybe 2 minutes, a taxi driver pulled up next to us to the side and blocked us so we could not pull out of the bus stop area wherewe had parked. Now we had parked behind a car in the parking area and another had quickly pulled up behind us so when her quick meeting was over, we had nowhere to go.

 Now every Ugandan knows that our taxi drivers dance to their own beat so we knew better than to rush the taxi driver but rather to patiently wait for him to drive away so that we could leave and head into town. The conductor flung the door open and a passenger briskly jumped out as he passed on his fare only for a police officer to slither from behind the car parked ahead of us in front of the taxi barring the driver from speeding off. Please note that this was not a traffic police man but a normal – police officer who usually wear the signature green uniforms. We thought this confrontation would not take much time and we would be well on our way only for a female traffic police office dressed in trademark white, brandishing an official traffic offence book ready write a receipt for whatever offence stood beside him opening a leaf as she engaged the driver.

5 minutes later

We had patiently waited for this encounter to blow over so that we could be on our way only for it to carry on for an additional 3 minutes. My sister finally got exasperated enough for her rebellious streak to come to the surface and she began to hoot for them to move ahead so that we could drive off.

Sister: “Officer, please allow us to leave.” (She used her hands to action her displeasure after being patient for a while but they took no notice of her and continued to disagree over the offence.)

Police Officer (Ordinary): (After ignoring us for a while) “Allo, madam first wait we deal with this one here – we are still writing his receipt.”

Traffic Policewoman: “Do not even complain, do you know your offence? This is not a parking area….ehhh ……officer what……do not call me.

I was so amused at how aggressive and humorous the female traffic officer was all at once.

Conductor: “Officer naye olabye motoka wali mabega, aparkinze bubi naye tobawadde papula.” (Officer but do you see that car behind, it is parked badly but you have not given them a receipt.)

Sister: Police Officer: “Deal with him where? Officer you already have him in your custody so let him move ahead so that I can pass and you can continue with him on the issue of his offence.

Police Officer (Ordinary): “Leo……….” (He ranted on in some Swahili gibberish for about 3 minutes as we both looked at him dumbfounded.)

I almost looked at myself to make sure that I was not in some sort of army fatigue or police uniform. Did he think we were one of his buddies from training school? I know that we come from the Eastern part of Uganda but that does not mean that all Ugandans or Easterners understand the Swahili language.

Sister: “Eh, officer what are you saying?” (With a frown on her face that clearly showed her discomfort and bewilderment, I decided to make fun of it and silently mimic him.)

Police Officer: “You see madam, this is a no parking area it is for stop overs so that is why we are giving him an offence receipt.

Sister: “Oh no problem officer, that is exactly why I stopped over and did not get out of my car when I got to this bus stop.”

Police Officer: “Yes we also know that it is hard to find parking in the city so we feel sorry for you and allow you to stop over here – but not to park.” (As he leaned into her window I guess for better effect)

Unfortunately for me in this case, I did not get an opportunity to get a clear view of his name tag on his uniform and I was not going to get myself in a bind by attempting to take a picture of him from the front. I did not want my sister’s car to be impounded or something like that since we were right next to the Wandegeya Police station. After a couple of minutes and further persuasion from my sister the receipt was written only for the taxi to be moved forward but the bargaining continued.

I wondered, if you have given me a receipt to pay for a fine due to a traffic offence why do you still continue to engage me and hold conversations after the fact. It simply means that that fine was not going to be paid or was I mistaken? Either way this over vigilant pair wasted about 15 minutes of our time so much that we were now caught up in the midday jam at the traffic lights in addition to the fact that the taxi was parked in a double parking position further aggravating the situation.

Only in Uganda.
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