Kibera’s Forgotten Hero?

By Thomas Bwire

Following the Miguna saga, the police and police reforms are on the spot. Do you trust the police?

The perception of many Kenyans about anything to do with our police officers is still negative. The first thing that comes to mind is being asked for a bribe from the “Boys in Blue”.

In addition, Kenya’s police service is one of the worst globally! This is from the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) report which put our country’s police force at position 125 out of 127.

The report, by the International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace, (yes) comes amid claims by human rights watchdogs that police used excessive force on opposition demonstrators during the 2017 electioneering period.

However, there are two sides to every story. In an iron makeshift house, located within the Administrative Police camp in Kibera, lives Aisha Nancy Mirasi. This is home for her entire family, conditions that most officers have to be content with. Maybe this state of housing could be the reason why officers do not perform diligently as is expected of them.

Well, for Nancy’s case, it’s a different script altogether. Her stars shone last year when she was named a top female officer at an awards ceremony held on 5th May 2017 in Nairobi to honour outstanding officers.

The Outstanding Police Service Awards (OPSA) 2016/2017  awards to fete brave officers in the police service. The award came in different categories, including, Best police Officer- Female, Best Police Officer – Male,human rights champions in the police service, best facilities in order of cleanliness, best detention facilities, community policing and those officers who go an extra mile in their work within the National Police Service (NPS).

Best police officer award

“My phone kept ringing non stop following the airing of the awards news on national television. I got congratulatory messages for being named the best female officer in Kenya,”  remarks Nancy.

Nancy was the darling of the community, she had brought positive fame to Kibera’s perceived bad name. Kibera was trending for having produced a top female cop.

Nancy bagged the best female cop award, following overwhelming votes from Kenyans who valued her work.  The soft-spoken police officer terms herself as a servant of the people and says that she has never taken a bribe in order to serve a fellow Kenyan.

The staunch Muslim cop hails from Garissa County and she is the 6th born child among 8 siblings. She vividly remembers her childhood memories how she used to admire the uniformed forces.

“When visiting the Nairobi Agricultural Society of Kenya, and even attending public holidays such as Madaraka day, I used to see how police officers were smartly dressed in their official uniforms, carrying guns as they march across and I wished that any of them could be my brother, my sister, you know, that’s how my passion to join the forces began,” says Nancy.

She adds that the uniform is what drove her to join the force, while at a tender age.

In 2005, her dream was actualized when she got recruited to join the police force under the Administrative Police wing (AP) and joined the Police Training College in Embakasi. She then underwent the mandatory 9 months training, thereafter she got her first posting in Bondo, where she worked for 6 months, and then moved to Nakuru until 2007. While in Nakuru, she played a critical role in maintaining peace and order during the post-election violence that saw the loss of more than 1000 Kenyan lives and the displacement of thousands across the country.

In-line with the police commands, her third posting brought her to work in Kibera.

“Just the mention that I was to come to Kibera, I had to give it a second thought, but at the end, I accepted that work had to be done,” says the soft-spoken Nancy.  Nancy believed that her working in Kibera would give her the opportunity to counter the bad narratives she used to hear, such as violent groups of young people who at one point paralyzed the rail transport by uprooting it and political riots and police alterations. While working in Kibera, she was assigned duties to patrol slums areas. Initially, it was challenging! Nancy’s first experience was a bad reception from suspected gangs that could at times threaten her and guarantee that she would not last more than 3 months in Kibera and that she was to leave the boys alone.

But Nancy is not just any woman with a faint heart, thanks to her police training, she soldiered on and learned ways to combat the negative voices in the community

“Gradually, I started to visit ‘Youth Bases’ and sat with them so as I could understand their real issues. I wanted to create a working relationship with them showing them that cops are not bad people as perceived by the public,” says Nancy.

With time her efforts started to bear fruit, crime levels started to decrease as the youth started to see life in a positive light. Nancy has been able to transform at least 3 boys who currently work as matatu crew on the Kibera route.

“As long as you know how to speak to the locals, a secret that I came to value while working in Kibera. Kibera people are now like my brothers and sisters.”

Nancy, winner of best police officer award with her trophies

Her work in the force never went unnoticed.  Members of the public gave her the reason to smile after she was named the best female cop countrywide in the 2017 awards organized by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), with the support of local and international partners.

This award did not come easy. Over the years she has dedicated her life to serve diligently. Some of the cases she deals with on a daily basis include cases of young people stealing parents’ household items and selling them to get quick cash, young girls dropping out of school and eloping with married men and cases of child abuse.

“My mother taught me something during the early years of my childhood that I treasure to date; the ability to give someone a listening ear and never to despise anyone in the community,” adds Nancy.

“Something that inspires me daily is that I don’t like to see someone in distress, I give my best when serving mwananchi at whatever level I can, There is nowhere written that a cop must be bribed. No! Even with offers at times, I have strongly rejected any form of appreciation because I believe it is my duty to serve. I want to show a different face of the police and stick to the ‘Utumishi Kwa Wote” slogan.”, this Nancy says is what motivates her

Her sentiments are echoed by Ismail Ramadhan Adan from Majengo Kingorani, Mombasa. He had a problem with the application process to enable him to acquire a national identity card. Several visits for months to the relevant offices did make any headway in his quest to legally acquire the important document.

“I met Nancy at Kibra Huduma Center where she was stationed last year and she helped me, she checked through my documents and advised which relevant documents I needed to facilitate the entire process to acquire the ID. She also referred me to the relevant offices that would serve me. Village elders had on several occasions demanded ‘I buy them tea’ for a recommendation during the application process!” says Adan.

“I  am happy she gave me appropriate guidance and I am now waiting to receive my personal National ID very soon,” he adds with a smiling face.

Azra Runji shared how she once reported a child abuse case to Nancy at 6.40pm, past working hours. Not wasting any minute, she wore her police uniforms and off she went to rescue the badly beaten 8-year-old child who is said to have failed to first return back home from school but opted to visit his friend first. This being a true reflection of the unforgiving society we live in today.

“As we speak the child was rescued and now lives in one of the children’s homes and the case is still ongoing. Having known Nancy for a period of 6 months, I am motivated by her self-dedication of serving mwananchi first,” says Runji

Nancy, commonly referred here as ‘Madam Officer’ she who never knew that one day she would be a center of attention is keen to help and guide locals especially when seeking government services.

“This award came as surprise to me, I was just fetching water and doing my house chores, one afternoon and received a call from Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA)  whoo! My heart skipped a beat, you know when you receive such calls, you have no idea what it is all about,” chuckles Nancy.

The call, however, conveyed the unexpected news that she had been nominated by the members of the public countrywide for an award.

Two weeks later the IPOA team paid her a courtesy call while stationed at Kibra Huduma Center, where she was interviewed about her work.

“This award is dedicated to all the citizens; they are my customers that I am happy to serve with all my heart. I have worked in the force for the last 13 years,” says Nancy

According to Stephen Musau, the Director, Inspections, Research and Monitoring at IPOA, the award is a good way to create positive relationships between the public and the police.

“Gradually with such awards, we can start changing minds from an early age,that police officers are only rogue people, as people who use force against fellow Kenyans, to an officer who can be seen to interact well and maintain good working relationships at all times so as they cannot be seen in the public eye as enemies but servants. This is the only way we can change the mindset and be able to build public trust and confidence within the force.’

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