I got off my plane at 10:30 p.m. I walked out of the airport at 11:45 p.m. Now that may be normal if I was waiting for my luggage, there were a lot of people at customs or some other logical reason. But I was at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and there were only 5 people in the queue in front of me. The story starts when the personnel on our station disappeared; he was not to be seen for the rest of the night. We therefore joined the second “Kenyan Citizens Only” queue which added maybe 4 more people in front of me – so I wasn’t worried. However, something interesting started to happen, there were people who obviously did not see the need to make the queue because airport “officials” – without any form of visible identification on them- helped them through the queue before us. There were several foreign “wazungus” in the Kenya only queue and somehow it was acceptable for them to be processed before I was. The customs official processing us could not be bothered with speed or even efficiency – at one time rather than say next – she called out “tsk, tsk…” Surprisingly when I finally got to her – it turns out all she had to do is show that my passport is valid and stamp it – a ceremony that took less than a minute. This was my true “Welcome to Kenya” moment. I was sinking into despair already.
Despite the disappointment at the airport, the dailies on June 30, 2012 made my face light up. The Kenyan court had proclaimed a decision President Kibaki to appoint county commissioners as illegal. See the article here. The fact that the court overturned the decision made me smile – this is not the Kenya I used to know- things are actually working. In addition two music artistes are being charged with incitement after they sang songs praising Uhuru Kenyatta – a presidential candidate but at the same time saying hateful things against other candidates. Another sign that the courts were at work, and that people were unwilling to let others get away with murder. Prime Minister Raila was also being challenged to give a straight answer regarding a security report by the late George Saitoti which implied that the government was involved in drug trafficking. The answer was still at large but pressure was mounting. Clearly this is not the wimpy Kenyan political system I left despite its cracks, there was some work being done in the background.
The television stations offered another face all together. There was a preacher who was offering miracles at a price. In answer to a woman who said she fells short of taking some people who had swindled her of money to a witchdoctor – he picked up the phone, “called” the party and threatened the person that unless he/she returned the money in three days they would lose their mind. All this punctuated by rounds of applause from a congregation. Is this what Church is today? I wondered. This is the face of desperation in Kenya – people are desperate and as a result will take whatever form of relief is offered. I hear that there are also miracle carpets on sale – you walk on it, you prosper.
However, there is a home shopping network where one can order things sold on TV, at a cheap price. Most of these were household goods and electronics. One can submit payment online, through the phone or cash on delivery. 48 hour delivery is guaranteed. No additional shipping assessed. This is way better than home shopping network in the U.S.
As I spend the next one month in Kenya I am looking forward to lost of surprises- both good and bad. I am glad that it is not all gloomy because otherwise there would be nothing to look forward to. The headlines on June 30, 2012 were that U.S. Ambassador to Kenya J. Scott Gration resigns after a year of service – my response? “Who?….” Here is to building hope in Kenya and to a new strapping U.S. Ambassador – soon…