Sunday April 20 2014

All planes are planes; dreamliners, jet fighters, junk choppers…

By Joachim Buwembo

My maid is far more patriotic than the minister’s maid. Last week, they were watching Citizen TV and on seeing president Uhuru Kenyatta launching Kenya Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the minister’s maid cheered with a thumbs up. But my maid sneered and attempted to change channels.

The minister’s maid snatched the remote and they had a mini-scuffle before agreeing to continue watching the KQ staff cheering as their president launched their new prize acquisition.

“Twakoowa akajanja ka banaKenya” (enough of the Kenyan fussing) said my maid. “What is so special about those Dreamliners anyway? Aren’t all planes planes?”

I didn’t want to allow them go off on an unguided argument so I briefly told them about the top passenger plane makers namely the France based Airbus, Brazilian Embraer, their Canadian rival Bombardier, and of course the American Boeing whose Dreamliner was making tempers flare in my living room.

“What about our Russian jets that were displayed during the 50th Independence anniversary,” my rather offside maid quipped. “Maybe the Kenyans saw those and got jealous that is why they bought their Dreamliners.”

Patiently, I explained that purchasing a new passenger plane is a process that takes some four to six years and so the Kenyans could not have been motivated by envy on seeing our fighter jets on October 9, 2012, as their Dreamliner order must have been made at least a couple of years earlier.
“But our jets are the most sophisticated in the world,” bragged my maid. “And they must be as expensive as those Dreamliners.

Although I concurred with my maid that our Russian-made jets probably cost more that Kenya’s Dreamliners a piece, I said she should not compare tomatoes with oranges as one is for fighting and the other is for making money by carrying passengers. But the minister’s maid was fuming and jumped into the fray.

“And what makes you think your jet fighters will serve you better than Kenya’s Dreamliners?” she fumed. “Do you think you need security more than Kenya?”

“No country exposes the full extent of its arms stock,” I stepped in to protect my maid because sometimes I don’t like it when the minister’s maid makes her look more daft than she is. “Even Kenya certainly has fighter jets and even Uganda has more than it displayed during the 2012 independence celebrations. The reason Kenya displayed the Dreamliners is to market their transport and tourism infrastructure.”

“And Uganda doesn’t need to market its tourism?” the minister’s maid turned her guns to me. “In fact honourable told us that Uganda has far more tourism attractions than Kenya but instead we hide them. He said that following that American soldier’s publicised trek, many people out there now think the Nile starts in Rwanda, same way they look at Rwanda as the home of mountain gorrillas.

So tell me mzee, while KQ tells the world that they can fly you nonstop from anywhere nonstop to Nairobi, do your fighter jets tell the world that the world’s longest river starts in Uganda, that the largest community of mountain gorrillas is in Uganda?”

“That is not the purpose of our jet fighters!” I quipped angrily. “Do you want to talk about tourism promotion or military capabilities? There is a world of difference between the two!”
“It is her who said that all planes are planes, so let us mix them,” she answered as she pointed an accusing finger at my maid.

I didn’t like the way the argument was going and I said as I walked away, “If you are going to mix tourism and air defence then please yourself.”

“She’s the one who praised our jet fighters comparing them to Kenya’s Dreamliners,” she said as she tried to block my exit. I realised if I left, she would taunt my maid to tears so I sat down and tried to take charge of the discussion.

“A jet fighter is a war machine like a gun while a Dreamliner is a luxury passenger plane for business,” I said firmly.

“Has Uganda ever bought junk choppers that could not fly?” she asked with a wicked smile.
“I am not the procurement manager of the army,” I said summarily.
“Does Uganda need an efficient airline since it is landlocked and also needs to promote its tourism?” she tried again.

“I am neither the transport minister nor the tourism minister,” I said. “What I know is that nobody has failed to fly into or out of Entebbe due to lack of a national airline.”
“So are the Kenyans foolish to keep developing their national airline?”
“You ask them!” I shouted and angrily stormed out of the living room.