The just concluded trip by the leader of the free world to Kenya has caused me to rethink about an old topic that I had previously put to bed. You see, Barack Obama’s visit to his father’s homeland caused such a wave of euphoria in Kenya that I expect to see in Uganda in the coming months when we host Pope Francis. It will be a circus similar to that that enveloped the country in 2007 when we hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.(CHOGM)
Oh, how I remember those days. The streets were expected to turn green overnight, millions were poured into beautifying the city, street lights were installed, roads were renovated and magnificent hotels were put up. A by-law was passed ordering all owners of buildings in the city to give them a fresh coat of paint to look good for her majesty the Queen of Britain.
Come a few weeks to the summit, Kampala sparkled. It had a touch of glamour so foreign to even its occupants that it looked like our neighbor Johannesburg. It was unusual not to find heaps of garbage scattered on the streets, or to travel on Kampala’s roads without meeting a single pothole.
The road from the airport through Entebbe which has a few bad spots that piteously expose our slums especially at Kibuye and Katwe was lined with long stretches of posters to hide the third world or rather to spare the queen of such pathetic sights. Nevertheless, we welcomed the queen in style, hosted a successful meet and showcased the pearl of Africa to the rest of the world as best as we could. All in all we put up faces for a good five days or so.
Fast forward two months after the meeting and life returned to normal. The newly renovated roads started to cave in one pothole after another; enormous far reaching rot was uncovered in one corruption scandal after another going up to the highest levels of government. The vice president at the time even found himself in prison in corruption cases involving the procedure for procuring services for the summit. Garbage returned to the streets to save the marabou storks from dying of starvation, and the grass plus flowers that had been planted soon began to wither.
Events in Kenya have unfolded in an almost cut and paste scenario to those of CHOGM 2007 in Uganda. It’s been hype, excitement and a strong dose of patriotism coursing the veins of our brothers in Kenya for the last 2months. (Ask CNN and you will know what I mean. The #KOT took it upon themselves to give CNN a day to remember when they responded en masse to a story run on the news agency about Kenya being a hotbed of terror using the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN.) Artists have got inspiration to pick up their brushes and paint their canvases, musicians can’t stop singing about the son of a sleepy village called Kogelo, and as always you can’t have a party and fail to invite the media, if you do they’ll gate crush it. All media outlets reported mostly on Obama the whole month.
In Kenya, the streets were cleaned up and roads received a touch of ‘Obamacare’ including the one to the state house. The streets sparkled so much that perennial eye sores like street kids were picked up from the streets albeit under the cover of darkness. I laughed my lungs out when the governor of Nairobi Evans Kidero called on people to steer off grass planted a mere 72 hours to the visit. Did he expect it to be fully grown in such a short space of time? One twitter user joked that perhaps the grass should be painted green. Another recommended a sprinkling of Aromat seasoning to be applied to the grass for miracle results while another advised that the president should be given glasses with a green shade so that everything on the streets looked green.
Focus now turns to the highly anticipated visit of the Holy Father to Uganda. Uganda is unusually blessed in these matters as this will be the third pope to visit the country, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II being the first two. Christians especially the Catholics can’t wait to see this successor of saint peter. My local parish sits in the vicinity of the papal nuncio’s residence and this is where the pontiff will reside during his visit. Already, work is going on to repair the roads leading up to the residence, the shrine of the Uganda martyrs which the pope will most certainly visit is undergoing a massive facelift to put it up to standard for the pope and so many security measures that well enjoy in that period. Of course some of the changes and preparations held to welcome such big personalities wither away with the tide of smoke from the planes back to their homeland, while others remain for all to see and remember. What excites me though is the frenzy we all get into to be ready for visitors; it makes me think we should host a huge personality or event each year. How about the African nation’s cup, then the world cup, or even the Olympics?
Am just saying..
PS; for the record, this is the first post with images that are not my own.