Saturday, September 17, 2011

Episode 45: The Present Tension

The Street is an ecosystem of sorts. Though not delicate everybody who is part of it knows the importance of maintaining its balance. The Street ecosystem looks more like a union of the low of society. Low in terms of income, power and perceptions. There are the Street people and children. There are also the watchmen and late night hawkers. Then there are the clients and us. Others who form the ecosystem include the city council askari and police who we consider parasites.

Its we girls who give meaning to the Street at night. Without us Koinange would be just like any other lackluster city street in dark. All those cars which drive past would not be there. The odd hour hawkers would have nobody to sell to. The watchmen, with nothing to excite them, would be like the many others in the city, sleepy and with no drive. Thus one would expect us to be at the top of the Street hierarchy, but we are not. At the top are those who feel the Street belongs to them. The competition here is between the Street people and the watchmen. The former feel more ownership because apparently they have been born and brought up in the streets, while the latter believe they have the official mandate to protect, not only particular properties but also the Street in general. Occasionally these two clash, either verbally or physically. However most of the times they find ways of accommodating each other, knowing very well their strengths. The Street people are not really governed by any code of conduct, and have little to lose.  The watchmen, on the other hand have the law on their side, a reputation and a job to think of.

When a girl comes to the Street she blends with both of these. It happens fast and without any coercion for it does not take long to know who owns the power of violence, which matters a lot here. A girl needs to feel protected even when on the Street. She also needs to be informed when she has dropped her guard and the police or city council askari are around. Also once in a while a man in a car or walking will come and try harassing a girl. Or a girl pinches the pocket of any of such during a promised cozy session in a dark alley or car. A man might discover and try to manhandle a girl. She only needs let out a cry and the man will not know what befell him. Rungus, fists and shoes will land on him.  By agreeing to be at the bottom of the Street chain of command vis a vis the ecosystem, the girls are guaranteed of the protection. Still sometimes a girl has to pay for the protection. The method of payment depends on a girl. Sometimes it’s in cash or kind.


I talk of these because after being away for about a month I went back and found there is a new street order. The Street people around the area I operate from have changed. There is a new group, more forceful in their enforcement.  They want a girl to pay a certain amount daily whether she turns up for work or not. They are also violent and I hear they have beaten a girl or two. On the hand girls are becoming increasingly impatient with them, and soon one or all of us will face of with them. The plan is to refuse to pay their extortion like    protection fee, the results might be a deadly face off.

The new Street people claim to offer more protection both against the City Council and the police. But they are not very smart in the way they do it. I hear a notorious city council askari who does the rounds was beaten on his way to his house about a week ago. A city council vehicle had one of its tires deflated. Stones were hurled at another. More is said to be in the works. Of course in situations like these we know the askari are planning some sort of crackdown or revenge like they usually do. The watchmen are intimidated, and the police operate at a higher level. The City belongs to the City Council and as much as we girls hate them we know the trick is not to be violent in the way we deal with them. We prefer to be more innovative, or play cat and mouse games with them, until the day one of us will emerge the winner. If it comes to violence they will always beat us.

The situation is quite tense, but then no one can come in between, not even the law. What is of the Street will be solved here. Such tensions arise once in a while, but unless you work here you may never suspect anything is wrong.  All signs are that the resolution will somehow happen very soon, and hopefully a stable power equilibrium will be established.

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10 comments:

  1. Sue wassup am hitting the streets in the next 1hrSue wassup am hitting the streets in the next 1hr

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  2. How can you be so clear minded and still stick to the streets? I mean you sound like someone with a very lucid/birds eye view of the street from some tower nearby,seeing what is happening there so clearly, and yet you continue to stay in there. Aich! Why? I juz dont get you.

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  3. aah I'm impressed you know where you fit in the ecosystem. but seriously you need to look for something better ,the streets are not for you

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  4. For the first time,i believe you belong to the streets.i can see your solid connection to the street...those who dont understand you think you ar only looking for money.For the first time,i believe you belong to the streets.i can see your solid connection to the street...those who dont understand you think you ar only looking for money.

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  5. Su makes my fcking day anytime. This shit is tight...Go girl!

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  6. Sue u feel like i know you but i know i don' t. i have never supported yo kind of trade ciz i know it's wrong ....but i can't go a day without reading yo blog....somehow i can identify with you.... i just wish you could leave the streets ...i just wish....Sue u feel like i know you but i know i don' t. i have never supported yo kind of trade ciz i know it's wrong ....but i can't go a day without reading yo blog....somehow i can identify with you.... i just wish you could leave the streets ...i just wish....

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