Detention in Nairobi
The detention facility had the following: beds, a toilet (a clean toilet actually) and was well illuminated. Right inside there were three other young men. I will avoid using their real names, as they all will not want to be known. There was a Chinese, a Pakistani and a Somali. While the Nigerian guy (let me call him Friday – because I don’t want to use his real names or reveal his tribe) was busy ranting and shouting, I was calm and was also trying to calm him. I told myself that I was going to have a good time here. There and then, I went round, introduced myself to the inmates and demanded to know their names and what crimes brought them there.
The Chinese had a problem with some immigration officials in Kenya. He has lived in Kenya for a couple of years. The long and short of his story was that because he could not pay a particular amount requested by the Kenyan immigration officials, they had to detain him there. I did not really bother to know details of what it was he did as I was detained illegally also, meaning anyone else can be. The other two had fake Kenyan visas, which was not their fault (but I still blame them). They used an agent who got them the fake thing. For this reason, I always advice people to go for their visas themselves.
Having someone you do not know process your visa for you is like a time bomb which will explode at the point of entry into any country you intend visiting. We sat, talked, laughed and made fun of everything. A few minutes later, a friendly guy whom I had met outside some minutes before was brought inside to join us. He was later going to become a friend but he still does not want people to know he was detained, so I will not mention his name or nationality – he is from French speaking West Africa but lives in Europe and I will call him Fayeed (if a name like that exist in the real life).
After an initial chat with fellow inmates, I realized I had no internet and there was no way to communicate with the external world. I was just getting very seriously scared but outwardly, I was faking smiles, if not for anything, to encourage the other Nigerian guy with us. The Pakistani enjoyed his internet and he was just telling anyone who cared to listen to him that his internet is almost finished and that he can only share with someone who buys airtime/ to recharge his phone. With the attitude he exhibited, I marked him out as someone I will never make friends with (and I did not even after I left Kenya).
We had a very nice and engaging conversations. We talked about corruption in Africa, xenophobia and all sorts of evil carried out on Africans by Africans against Africans. I could communicate with each and everyone except the Somali who spoke only Arabic. Fayeed however was the only person in the room who was able to communicate with him (The Somali) because he spoke Arabic. To the Somali, he seemed not to be worried about his detention. He seemed to be content with the two meals they are provided with on a daily basis. Some of us reasoned and believed that the Kenyans were doing him a favor there keeping him and feeding him. I can’t even recall how he was able to communicate to me to give him my telephone charger to charge his phone.
At about 15:00 hrs in the afternoon, one of the immigration officials came in to serve the older inmates food. It was a well packaged rice and stew with meat. The portion was so large that I was really impressed they could give those to people in detention. It was however only three of those that was made available for the three inmates. They promised to bring us something eventually did not as they later said that the people who did the cooking only planned for three people. So we had to wait for the dinner which they normally serve around 23:00 hrs. We silently watched these guys eat their food and I silently complained to myself about their poor cultural up-bringing in their different countries. These boys confirmed to us that there will be no food here till 11 pm and yet they are not even willing to share theirs or even do the ceremonial ‘come and eat’ we do in Africa signifying willingness to share our meal.
Friday (the Nigerian guy there with us) was an extrovert. He was just screaming, shouting and complaining about the treatment meted out on us by the Kenyan authorities. At one point, he started blaming me for asking him to cool down when we were being asked to enter into the detention facility. I simply pretended I was not hearing. He was ranting and telling anyone who cared to hear that he is a king in his country and has a good relationship with white people (Those were none of our business). He boasted that his gold chain on his neck is worth more than $5,000 dollars (I cannot buy those for even $20) and that his iPhone 7 costed more than $3000. He went round to show those who cared pictures of him and the white people…and all sorts of boastful things he was saying. When he cooled down, he started soliloquizing that it was just that he wanted to apply for an American visa…was the only reason he wanted to get a Kenyan visa, so that he can demonstrate to the Americans he has traveled elsewhere and returned back home, otherwise, he does not want anything to do with Kenya. In my mind, I was laughing at him because I have seen people with visas to other countries who were denied visa to the US. It was then, in order not to listen to his trash I asked Fayeed his nationality and then I found out he spoke French….I had earlier noticed he struggled to speak English. I was happy because at least, if there was nothing to do, I could gossip and express my dissatisfaction of the nagging and boastful attitude of Friday (The other Nigerian). Several other people were brought into the detention facility who called their relatives/Kenyans they know to come to their rescue. They were eventually taken out and were given visas.
Tu Parles Français ?
Fayeed was very happy to know I understood French also and it was a good time to talk about more important things. He looked into my face and asked me to tell him the truth about who I actually was and what I was in Kenya to do. At that point, it dawned on me that even some of the people I was with probably did not believe my story. I took a deep breath a told him I am a tourist like I said I was. He told me he came to visit a friend and that he was detained because he would not bribe their officials. They wanted a bribe because of his old visa was to expire a day before he leaves back to Brussels where he lives. We spent most of the time discussing Friday’s pride and unguarded utterances. We also talked about a couple of things we could do to get it into Kenya and so on. It was when we were discussing all these that a Kenyan official came into the facility and called out Friday to follow him with his luggage. He stepped out in arrogance and left us without even a goodbye and also forgetting his camera that he used to take shots of the facility, which he said he will give to his lawyer to prosecute the Kenyan government for abusing his rights. His departure made Fayeed and I feel best like we have just been beaten 1 – 0 in a game. Our feelings of failure were heightened when another official who we thought came for us came back to ask for Friday’s camera.
After an hour or so of Friday’s absence, he was returned back to us. We felt good initially that at least, we have not been sidelined that much. His return added more salt to the injury as he came to tell us that they have successfully booked his return flight the next morning and that he was convinced that they were neither going to release Fayeed nor myself anytime soon as it was only his flight that was rescheduled for the next day. That was the first time I really felt irritated in there. Fayeed simply told me ‘Ca va aller mon frere‘ which means “everything will be well brother”. It was then I decided it was time to contact someone to help. I spoke to the Chinese guy who then shared his internet data with me to send emails to my employers in Lagos to let them know I was detained in Kenya for no good cause. It was also time to send a message to my mum to tell her I was ok as I always do each time I traveled. It was also then I thought of Nnamdi Kanu who has been in detention for almost two years and been deprived of his family – “Nna nwoke a sikwara ike oooo” (Mehn, this guy is strong, referring to Nnamdi Kanu) I said to myself. As if Friday knew Fayeed and I had been making jest of him, he taunted us more by saying things that made it look like we will not be leaving the facility soon. The Chinese guy also corroborated his story telling us that the Kenyans will tell you something and will mean the otherwise. I told Fayeed in French that he should watch, that something tells me things will turn around and this guy (Friday) will eventually get to be dropped when they will come for us.
A Good Man in Nazareth
At around 23:00 hrs, an official from the Kenyans came with our dinner and told us that three of us who were detained that day should get ready to leave the next morning by 5 am in the morning. Well, we were really happy for the food and the excitement on the Fayeed’s face was just amazing – not for the fact we were told we will be leaving the next day, but because we were just served food. We were very hungry. Friday however rejected the food. We joked in French that he probably must have swallowed some substance (drugs which probably he has come to sell in Kenya) and did not want to eat so as not to excrete it.
There was however something humane about the last immigration official who came to serve us food. He was very kind and wanted to hear us talk, a quality those in the day shift never had. He told me specifically that my problem was because so many Nigerians come in to Kenya and fail to leave. He advised me to make sure I have a contact in Kenya the next time I come. I also advised my ‘large mouthed’ friend Friday to ask the same officer to see the possibility of them giving him a visa, since according to him, he will need it for the application of his US visa.
After all these, we slept and as early as 4 am, Friday was awake and dressed. He was giving us looks suggesting ‘you guys should have a nice stay‘. There and then, the official came and called out the three of us! Hmmm, I was like, it’s now 1 – 1. Our team just scored! Fayeed and myself parked our stuffs in a hurry and were ready in less than a minute. Never cared to brush our teeth or change something else! Just leave the place before they change their mind. It was like freedom at last.
The Kenyan official took us to the airlines to confirm our bookings. It was at that point that Friday discovered that the immigration officials did not get his luggage from the previous day as they promised and he was now told he had to wait in Kenya to pick it up before travelling back to Nigeria or forget it. It was at that point I told Fayeed that I said it… we will leave this guy here and go back while he remains here. Friday could not stand the thought of staying back… I could not hold laughter as it was now 2 – 1 in our favor. While they were trying to figure out a solution, Fayeed and I were busy looking for the best place in the airport to take nice selfies at least to remember the experience. We safely got back to our destinations safely the next day when we chatted on WhatsApp again. Did not even bother to look back to find Friday (An action I later regretted).
Going Home via Entebbe and Libreville
At 5 am on Monday morning, we were boarded and headed to Entebbe, Uganda before going to Kigali where we change planes to Cotonou. My joy was revived when the pilot mention we were headed to Entebbe because the Entebbe Airport was the main place I wanted to visit in Uganda. I wanted to see the airport and the imagine how the Israeli commandos raided the airport in 1976 when the Air France with majority Israeli nationals was hijacked. We arrived there safely. I took a few shots but discovered MTN adverts all over the airport.
We left straight to Kigali after a 30 minutes stopover. From Kigali, I tried to make sure I enjoyed every bit of going home. I made sure I ordered as much as I wanted to eat from the air hosts and hostesses. I kept thinking of the whole experience and what could have happened if they allowed me in. I was a bit happy that at least, I did not spend any of the cash I came with, but at the same time, the ticket I bought for the trip was wasted.
The flight from Kigali to Cotonou was fun on its own. I noticed a guy who was pressed so hard waiting for the toilet to be free. The woman some seats ahead of me looked very much like a sister to one of my bosses in Lagos (ADZ…if you know where I work). I also have this man that joined us when we stopped over in Gabon who I instantly noticed was like he is a Chief Pastor of a Celestial Church of Christ Church in Libreville, he eventually introduced himself as one, After looking very serious and taking some notes of what I think was what the ‘spirit was telling him’, he was free for some chats and he there and then invited me to Gabon which I promised I would honour someday. Immediately we arrived Cotonou, I had already made up my mind to embark on another journey. I was considering Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana or Niger Republic and Burkina Faso. After it dawned on me I have never been to Niger for the first time, I felt strongly convinced I should visit there and I continued the journey the next day.
Eventually, the protocol officer in my company called me the next day to tell me Nairobi Stock Exchange dispatched lawyers to come to pick me at the airport but I was already gone when they arrived. It made me feel good and important though…even though I had already wasted some cash.