Some Kenyans thought the film The Constant Gardener, with its background shots of Kibera, and the scene where the police officer asks for a bribe, gave a negative picture of Kenya.
They missed the point: the average victimised Kenyan came out as a hero, while those involved with international finance were the spoilers. What about now, with daily footage of burnt out vehicles, burnt down buildings, and riot police clobbering people and firing at them?
Kenya's paramilitary police, the GSU, are bad news. Trained to quell riots, and charge with all their force at rioters, they sometimes exceed the limits.
During the recent mass protests, the regular police have been firing live ammunition, against orders. The Opposition has called it blood-lust and killing-fields; the security forces say they have acted with restraint. In the middle of the fracas and the provocations it's hard to say who is right. But hounding innocent victims; children and the elderly through the fetid alleyways of Kibera and Mathare and the slums of Kisumu, and kicking them when down is beyond restraint.
Some countries pride themselves in their friendly security forces. Kenyans fear theirs, whether regular police or GSU. A Kenyan will cross the street rather than meet a cop head on. The police are usually at the top of corruption and unpopularity polls. This mistrust and fear stems from colonial times, and is used as a way of keeping the populace in their place. Individual police commissioners have tried to polish the image and bring the officer closer to the people, but generations of bad experiences cannot erase overnight.
Concerning the powers of security and government officers, Kenyans are still living in the past, and laws have not been adapted to modern needs. The Chief's Act and the Riot Act, for example, go back to the 1930s when it was thought the natives needed to be pacified.
Post-independence governments have the same mind: us and them, the school-masters and the errant pupils who need a dose of the kiboko.
The kiboko of today is more lethal, efficient and nasty than 75 years ago, and causes more havoc, and bitterness.
Many of the country's institutions, including its current constitution, operate in the past too. This compounds the troubles; presidential powers are too far-reaching and absolute. There are few checks and balances, so people feel they are given a raw deal in the courts and government offices. Too often the only way to get things done is by means of who you know, and the amount of chai (bribe).
Until a new majority-approved constitution is in place, which guarantees separation of powers, one of the principle causes of the present crisis remains unsolved.
The rulers are perceived as living in the past too, a comfortable past enjoyed by an elite removed from everyday needs.
Our election has been stolen, people reason, by a few loyalist hard-liners who have kept us on the edge of survival, with their economic policies and their old-fashioned laws and institutions, and want to do so for another five years. No, thank you!
What is the way forward? Several possibilities have been suggested: a coalition, power-sharing, international mediation, a presidential re-run. Probably what will happen is that both sides will push their position as hard and long as they can, like a pair of hand-wrestlers, until one gives way. The government is likely to lose sympathy once the economy suffers noticeably, as companies start down-sizing, which has in fact already started with thousands out of work.
The Opposition have called off protests for the moment, and asked people to boycott companies owned by people close to the president.
The security forces are getting tired too; many of them have been fighting their own people. In many areas learning institutions open, then close. Learning goes on only in the areas that voted for PNU and Kibaki; the rest of the country won't be happy with that either. The public universities remain closed. Dissatisfaction will increase.
The Opposition may well believe they can persevere for several more weeks, since they already have a good backbone of supporters. They think they can cripple the country with protests, strikes and boycotts, and force the rulers into submission, and back to the ballot box, as happened in Ivory Coast.
Either way, it is the weak and the poor who suffer most. A permanent solution must be found for the hundreds of thousands of displaced, whose situation worsens by the day.
It is not only for the security forces to restore order, but government leaders must meet the Opposition on terms acceptable to the latter, since they are the ones wronged; both sides must put all the cards on the table and none up their sleeves.
Author is a Kenyan freelance writer and journalist