Africa, why wait?

By on July 27, 2015

The past few days have been something of a news and social media blizzard with The President of The United States (POTUS) visiting our beloved neighbours ‘Watu Wa Kenya’. Journalists from across the globe have been falling over themselves while politicians, local leaders and other notable humans have competed for proximity with Mr. Barack. It’s a bit of a shame that Michelle, Natasha and Malia did not accompany Barack to the now very bright continent or the girls would have asked for extended stay. I know several gentlemen who had invested time in gym work, mastering the American accent and practicing poetry so as to make an impression on especially Malia. It’s a pity the ladies didn’t show up.

But Barack was here; that is what matters.

It is not so often you get to breathe the same oxygen as Barack Obama and so when the opportunity presents itself, you hold your head high, close your eyes, open your nostrils and take in the mother of all breaths.

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President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta before delivering a speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at the United Nations Compound, on Saturday, July 25, 2015 (Evan Vucci/AP PHOTO)

While the lucky Kenyans enjoyed live scenes of two beasts (the heavily armored vehicle popularly known as ‘The Beast’, and the other CIA woman who looked like she walked straight out of a Women’s Bantamweight UFC fight) the rest of Africa (and the world at large) was left to nibble on the crumbs of Retweets, Shares, occasional misinformation and delayed broadcasts on various TV Channels.

Oh yeah, there was Live Tweeting, Live TV and whatnot but it is never the same.

Basically not all of us were lucky to enjoy the euphoria first hand. A few friends traveled from Kampala to Nairobi so they could be among the crowd that would eventually prove to Obama that he was home after all. The closest some of us came to sharing the experience was consuming Kenyan products throughout the weekend – in honour and recognition of the commendable nature in which the Kenyans welcomed, hosted and bid farewell to Obama. The Kenyans made Africa proud, they really did.

Calm

Together Tunawakilisha!

As the hangover of the historic visit sets in, MOST Kenyans will probably get back to their normal routines. Apart from Auma Obama, Barack’s half-sister whose Twitter account exploded from a few hundred followers to several thousand within seconds of hugging her half-brother, it is safe to say that most Kenyans will return to their normal lives almost immediately. After a brief hiatus, Traffic jam will be back in Nairobi, corruption will continue to veer its ugly head and Kenyan politicians will carry on making ridiculous statements and decisions. Even the new parents who in the spur of the moment named their children Obama, Potus, Airforce One or The Beast will wake up to harsh realities of immunization, expensive baby food and diapers.

Nairobi County’s governor Evans Kidero will now have more time to attain his $500,000 public-works goals that include growing grass in record time.

With time, the matatus, bars, schools and homes that had painted their walls with images of Barack Obama will slowly start seeing fading paint. I am pretty sure the University of Nairobi students who had threatened to kill themselves in case Obama did not visit them will hope the rest of us shall forget – and forget we shall; after a slight chuckle. Similarly, the 31 female students who threatened to pee on the Obama Tree will find other places to relieve themselves – with less or no attention accorded to them.

Basically, everything will most likely be right back on schedule. Life will go on.

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Seven-year-old Barack Obama, named after President Barack Obama, at the Senator Obama primary school in Kogelo village west of Nairobi (Thomas Mukoya / Reuters)

You see, it is quite the African tradition to prepare one’s house and get things in order when expecting a visitor. You sweep the compound, slaughter your finest fowl/animal and dress your children in the ceremonial we-have-guests outfit. That day, you even have interest in your wife’s hair – something you had no idea she had until that moment. The daughters will be allowed to use the petroleum jelly that is often reserved for special occasions.  You will basically pull out all the stops.

The question however is; what if one does not receive too many visitors or worse still, what if one is shunned by visitors, does that mean they will never get their house in order?

And more importantly, does one have to anticipate a visitor for them to put their house in order?

Why can’t we always keep our house in order so that when a visitor randomly drops in we do not have to put pressure on grass to grow or start painting walls and fixing roads haphazardly? Why can’t we as Africans always have our house in order irrespective of who is visiting us?

Let’s look at the Ugandan case now, shall we?

As a country, Uganda has received a fair share of high profile visitors but somehow we never seem to get our house in order before, during or even after the much talked about visit.

In the early 1900s Theodore Roosevelt visited Uganda. After him, Carter visited in 1993, Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2003. Pope John Paul II visited Uganda on 7th Feb in 1993. I was a little younger then but everything is still so fresh in my mind. Hymns were created for the pope and a record number of babies were christened John and/or Paul that year. And how can one forget Her Majesty The Queen of England opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala in 2007? These are just a few of the heavy weights who have visited this beautiful country over the years.

When all these people visited (especially the most recent, her Majesty), we had several roads fixed, a couple of sexy looking buildings set up, security became air-tight, we even had the Police Force get introduced to the greatly disliked white uniform. Some babies were even unlucky to be named CHOGM, Summit or Commonwealth. There was even a CHOGM car scandal to remind us of the Queen’s visit. Generally, a lot happens when these people visit.

monumentThe Stride Monument that was built in commemoration of Uganda hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007 and was unveiled by the Queen of England during the CHOGM summit. (Photo by Mamerito Ssenfuma) 

Once again, I ask the question – do we have to wait for people to visit for us to (attempt to) get our house in order?

2016 is going to be a momentous year in Uganda for so many reasons but mostly because we shall have presidential elections. Now, in the run up to the elections, it is becoming evident that political hopefuls are throwing around money to woo voters and supporters. Lucky for them, the population is greatly illiterate and immensely poor so much that you cannot wholly blame them for being bought cheaply. My worry is that as soon as the election is over, everything will return to pathetic normal.

The now-elected people will lock themselves up in Air Conditioned offices and cars while the now-powerless electorate will continue to grapple with issues of poor health, illiteracy and ignorance as well as living hand-to-mouth.

People need to realise that there will be a tomorrow, just as there was a yesterday and there is a today. It is all well and good to prepare for our visitors – it is what we do as Africans; no one in the world is better at hosting visitors than we are. But let us try to develop a culture of never waiting for visitors to come before we can get our house in order.

Sometime last month, it was confirmed that Pope Francis will be coming to Uganda around November 27-29 this year. My humble appeal is that we do not wait until the pontiff’s visit is a few days away to start running around like headless chicken – in preparation for his arrival.

A couple of lessons can be picked from the Kenyan experience with POTUS. In some instances, everything seemed like it had been planned months in advance while in some instances one would imagine the visit of POTUS was impromptu and therefore required improvisation.

Let us shock everyone with a well orchestrated and smartly planned hosting program that begins running months before the Pope visits and carries on even after he has gone. After all, he will not be the last visitor and from what I gather, he is a down to earth fella who will probably not want the pomp and glamour that we are budgeting. Let us get our house in order and have it neat and tidy before, during and after the pope’s visit.

“Announcing the intended arrival of some people is kind of like issuing a hurricane warning. ” ― Richelle E. Goodrich

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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Baldie. Ailurophile. Social Media Junkie. Blogger. Pluviophile. Fixer. Sober Drunkard.
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  • Luyombya Resty

    Another brilliant piece by Beewol. You continue to marvel with your writing. Good sense of humour and very catchy way of putting your point across. Now I know why you were voted Blogger of the year in 2013 😉