Okay, yes, it is true; we ran a red light. But it was virtually impossible to see until we were through the intersection. Of course, what are the chances that anyone noticed? This is virtually standard practice in Africa. In fact, there was a policeman at the corner who raised his hand. Not knowing there was a problem, I gave him a thumbs up! (Yes really!)
A minute or two later, he is passing us on his motorcycle and flagging us down. What? The police virtually never have access to a vehicle, never mind a snazzy motorcycle.
The conversation commences, and he informs us of our infraction. Bummer! Only now do we realize what happened. Stink! Benjamin and I discuss in a manner he can’t interpret. He tells us to follow him to the police station. We comply. On the way, we quickly but nonchalantly check the dashcam. Halfway there, he pulls over again and informs us he is calling his superior officer. We wait. The superior arrives—it is his brother. Things are starting to get really suspicious. However, we have broken the first guideline of Africa, checkpoint/stop negotiation:
To avoid corrupt police or paying a bribe, don’t be in a rush or care about where you are going or when.
Unfortunately, we have a 4 p.m. flight to catch and several errands before then. We ran a red light, and any excuse about its visibility is not going to stand up to scrutiny while we are negotiating with the officer on the street.
We chit-chat and learn about how he finally was accepted into the police force, but that, in fact, the job isn’t that great. However, once you are on the force, it is extremely difficult to leave. Also, friends still believe it is the ideal job, so leaving would be viewed as ungrateful. He requests contact information because he has participated in the USA immigration lottery for a few years now and is looking for help. I comply to his request but assure him that immigration was not something I could help with. (Kinda like he can’t help me with Ghana immigration which has been a nightmare for us and going to get worse – although we didn’t know this yet.)
We aren’t getting anywhere, and the day isn’t getting shorter. I pay him $40 cash (I expect I could have gotten away with less, but hindsight doesn’t change history), and we are dismissed. In fact, I suspect we could have talked our way out of this, but our time pressure took priority. This is the second time we have paid a bribe, both times because we were likely in the wrong (although both times it was unknowingly), so we didn’t have much ground to negotiate with.