Jomo Kenyatta Airport feels like a war zone.
Armed cadets motion passengers from the plane to a beige-green bus marked National Youth Service. We sit cramped together, luggage on laps.
To our right, a steel wall barricades the main airport building gutted by fire.
Our driver, in a beret and green army fatigues, weaves through the pitch black before pulling up at a multi-story car park that's serving as the makeshift arrivals hall. Soldiers usher us to immigration gates where ticket machines stood a few months ago.
I head to “Foreign Visitors” until I feel a tug at my arm. “This officer is a friend of mine.”
My impromptu guide jumps me through the “Kenyan Citizens” line and fires a meaningful nod at the olive-uniformed guard. He asks me the purpose of my visit but before I can say “business” my passport is stamped and I'm through.
My new-found friend sat next to me on the plane. He was a candidate in the 2013 election for a ward in Nakuru, Kenya's third largest city after Nairobi and Mombasa. He lost the election but became the assistant to the winning MP, a mate of his. As we wait half an hour in the four parking rows that make up baggage reclaim, he shows me one of his three mobile phones. He has private numbers for everyone who's anyone, right up to President Uhuru Kenyatta – “my cousin.”
Two extended families ...