In Kenya, the relationship between civilians and the police has not always been a rosy one, but what many probably fail to appreciate is the fact that these men and women in uniform also have feelings and can be compassionate.
That was demonstrated when several police officers and court workers at the Isiolo Law Courts came together and contributed their own money to bail out a poor father of three who was arrested and was about to be jailed for selling chips (French fries) in unhygienic conditions.
John Mugaa had reportedly been frying and selling chips by the roadside to provide for his children and pay their school fees since 2018.
According to the single father of three, he was going about his business as usual, peeling potatoes in readiness for frying, when Isiolo county public health officials ambushed and pounced on him and confiscated his cooking equipment at around 10pm on Friday, 20 September.
Apparently, a crackdown on food hawkers was going on, during which Mugaa was arrested and taken to Isiolo Police Station where he was locked up for three days, awaiting arraignment.
The distraught father appeared before Chief Magistrate Samuel Mungai as was scheduled, pleaded guilty to selling food in unhygienic conditions and sought leniency.
“I beg this court to consider the lives of my three children who rely on me and pray for a lenient decision,” the accused pleaded, tears lingering in his eyes.
In his ruling, Mungai stated the offence could not be taken lightly as selling food in unhygienic conditions could result in poisoning and even death.
The chief magistrate slapped Mugaa with a fine of KSh 20,000 (about R3 000) or six months behind bars as the alternative. It was a shattering verdict for the poor dad.
The accused could not raise the full amount, so this meant he was going to prison.
His three children who were in the vicinity broke into tears upon receiving the news, petrified by the thought that their father could be going to prison.
The tearful children caught the attention of the court clerk, who approached them to find out what they were doing at the precincts of the court and why they were crying.
“We came here with my elder brother carrying our two-year-old younger brother hoping that our father would be released,” one of them, a girl, said.
Touched by the plight of the youngsters, the clerk proceeded to rally his colleagues to help Mugaa raise the fine and in a matter of hours, they managed to contribute to make up the difference.
The father of three was eventually released and he profusely thanked the police officers and court workers who came through for him.
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