Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010 - Kitu Kidogo

Today in the car driving Grace to school Charles said to me, "Madame...I don't think corruption in Kenya will ever end." Now if that isn't a sad way to start the day, I don't know what is!

Where did his statement come from?

Yesterday Charles went to the post office for me to pick up a package from my mother. It turns out that most postal workers were on strike for the second day of trying to pressure the government to increase their wages. It also turns out that there were a few postal workers still actually working, but in order for them to do their work they were demanding bribes from customers. In Swahili, "kitu kidogo" means "a little something" and if someone asks for "kitu kidogo" they are asking for a bribe. So when Charles requested my package they told him that they couldn't get it without "kitu kidogo." He called me with an update and I confirmed that under no circumstances should he pay them anything, he could just come home and try again another day. Well, Charles had other plans.

He basically staged a protest during which he stood there for 3 hours and told them that he wasn't leaving without the package or without speaking to the very head manager. So he just stood there and waited and waited and waited. He said they couldn't believe that he wouldn't just pay them something small to find his package. Eventually they caved and decided to just make him happy so he would go away, but by the time they found out where the package was he had to leave to run two more errands for me before picking up Kristoffer from work (reminder from blogs past: once they locate your package you still have to go through several levels of bureaucracy for stamps and signatures as well as make a trip to the bank to pay duty, so it could have taken up to another hour before he could actually leave with the package).

So he at least got documentation of where the package was located so that he can easily go back today or tomorrow to pick it up. And he didn't pay "kitu kidogo." It is discouraging to live in a country where that happens at every level of society on a daily basis. After he told me that he thinks corruption will never end, I asked him if it was at least any better than it used to be? And he said that yes, in fact, there is less corruption than in the past but still too much. So I suggested that maybe it is just a very long process and with time time time it will continue to disappear. I also congratulated him for standing up against corruption yesterday (literally, for over 3 hours). We hope that it is Kenyans like him who will change the status quo.


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