30 Second Third World National Police Escort Advisor

2007-03-23-07-mombasa4.jpgMombasa, Kenya – If you’ve never been in a car, bus or van that’s had the privilege of having a national police escort in a third world country, here are a few survival tips to take to heart:

You have to give credit where it’s due, and these guys know how to drive. But bear in mind that this ain’t no ride at EuroDisney. The rundown cars, beat-up trucks and rickety three-wheeled taxis that are abruptly ordered aside after being nearly driven off the road, and the people in them, are all real. So are the pedestrians and those pulling carts full of bananas and papayas to market.

2007-03-23-07-mombasa1.jpgDon’t be too freaked out by the humiliating look of terror that takes over the face of an oncoming driver who’s been pointed to and scolded by the heavily armed police officer as he speeds by. They’re used to it, and they’re probably just playing along.

2007-03-23-07-mombasa2.jpgWhen a policeman firmly suggests that you don’t take his picture, he’s not joking.

Sit back and enjoy and don’t be a back seat driver. Your driver knows as well as you do that the traffic light he just sped through was red.

escort1.jpgThank your driver. He’s only doing his job. It’s not his fault that some of the people he’s forced to follow are mildly insane when they get behind the wheel. He’s got little choice in the matter.


whitesandsview1.jpgThe sprawling palm tree-lined private beach that belongs to the White Sands Hotel and Resort is certainly a sight and setting to behold. The most invigorating breeze one can imagine is blowing from the Indian Ocean, the sands are indeed white, and the stars on this night too numerous to count. For many holiday makers –it’s high season and there are many– it’s an ideal setting. But the problem, if you want to characterize it as such –and I certainly do– is that, besides the ample supply of Tusker beer, this isn’t really Kenya. I could be sitting on a Club Med veranda in Haiti, Nicaragua, Tanzania or Sri Lanka. Or Florida, for that matter. The primary, indeed only language spoken is English. The music coming from the scratchy speakers at the beachside cocktail bars is British and American pop, there’s nothing particularly Kenyan about the cuisine on offer at the various open air restaurants, and nothing is particularly cheap. In short, everything about this heavily-secured tourist compound makes you easily forget that you are Mombasa. Some people like that, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m stuck here for a few more days but am already looking forward to moving on.

2007-03-23-07-mombasa3.jpgThat said, the throngs that such a resort employs are charming, friendly, knowledgeable, and extremely hospitable. Even the gun-toting security guards, polite as can be, greet you with a smile. Earlier I was showing Ernest, the young man on night watch on my end of the beach, some pictures of Slovenia, and he’s now a big fan.

“Oh my,” he said, his gun resting against his long skinny left leg, “such a very, very beautiful place.”

  1. As usual, a thought-provoking post.

    Interesting view of “third-world” police. As one such “third-world” citizen, I have watched this particular aspect evolve in India. Even now, the look of terror that you saw on faces is to be seen in many people here in India. And to let you in on a secret – they are not playing along. Getting caught by the local law is often a very bad idea for people here. But things are changing somewhat. The evolution I mentioned earlier is due to the fact that many more educated & prosperous Indians are choosing to live their lives outside the Government system and are not easily intimidated by local cops. As prosperity & education spreads across vast swatches of Asia, Africa and South America, I am sure more of us will lose that “humiliating look of terror”. So you see, for many of us in the “third world”, prosperity is not just about money; it is a lot more. It is equally about self-respect and control over our lives.

  2. harinair: Thanks for that insight. And I’m glad you put the term, ‘third world’ in quotes. For the record, it’s not a term I like to use. It’s condescending at best, and not really accurate or even relevant anymore (if it ever was in the first place). For headline purposes, it simply fit better than using ‘developing world’. 🙂 I do think, however, that if it’s at all relevant anywhere, it’s a nice fit for the police here in Kenya, widely regarded as among the most corrupt in the world, placing them firmly in a ‘world’ all their own.

    As an aside, ‘Third World’ conditions are found everywhere. The most stark example I’ve experienced was when returning from a visit to Nicaragua about a decade ago. Some seven or eight hours after bouncing along the pot-holed desperate streets of Managua I found myself driving along the same sort of desperate and desolate streets in a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

  3. You are right, i am sorry left wing buddy’d! but he is absolutly correct. i used to liv there and the police does what they need to do but sometimes you have to pay on the spot(not as bad as Thailand nut still). however there commucincation is pretty good. if you are going to do the 103 ore the ,109(ore anything going to the victoria)) let them know day to day. if you go mising they will find you.
    i leftKenia befor ethe elections and the problems. i went to Thailand, i miss Kenia every day.it’s much better, nice people. they want to go forward.
    when teh problems stop i wil go back as soon as possible.

    live life and enjoy
    gr M

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