At about 4.30pm, grey clouds drifted across the sky over Owiny Primary school blocking out the sun’s rays. Ordinarily this would have been a welcome relief from the scorching sunshine. But this time, it was met with groans and impatient sounds from an eager crowd.
If will and wishing away could move clouds then at least over Pokwero shopping centre and its environs, the sky would have turned back to blue instantly.
So many goggled eyes trained on the west towards the setting sun. But it would take agonising minutes of hoping against hope, and with each second the prospect of the eclipse which many had travelled so far to view happening behind the clouds became more real. Never have clouds over any part of this country been watched that intently.
Finally a few minutes before the total darkness moment could be achieved, the skies opened up just enough to show the sun now obscured by the moon but for a sliver that resembled the thinnest of crescent moons.
A cheer went up, louder and more enthusiastic than that which had received the speeches earlier, including the President’s. Then as everyone marvelled, the temperature which had dropped markedly, dropped a little further and a cool breeze crept in though few noticed. And then the phenomenon many of us had only read about happened. A total solar eclipse occurred. In place of the sun was a dark globe outlined by a yellow whitish light. But then again viewing the real thing was more magnificent, breath-taking.
“Wow! Wow!” one lady shouted, jumping up and down like a child.
There was a moment one could dispense with the various viewing glasses and a myriad improvisations from negatives and X-ray. This was when there was total darkness and you would not be able to see anything through the glasses. It was but a moment.
The diamond ring
And then a bright ray of light broke through the ring towards the bottom of the circle and yet another amazing sight was added. A diamond ring. “It happens when a ray of light breaks through a perfect circle and resembles a diamond ring,” said Emmanuella Pace, an astronomer from Italy.
According to him this is one of the clearest diamond rings and it also lasted a tad bit longer than usual which made this hybrid eclipse even more special.
If one was not looking, it was over before it started, seeming to last even for less than the 20 seconds that had been predicted the total eclipse would be visible over Pakwach. The gradual movement of the moon off the sun did not grip the crowd as the build-up to the total darkness.
Earlier in the afternoon the field now crowded with viewers had been the scene of opening ceremony of the eclipse monument that was set up on the Owiny Primary School playground in Pokwero. Entertainment from local cultural groups, school children and exhibitors also kept the guests busy.
In his speech, which was just before the wait for the eclipse to commence, the President had assured the world that Uganda as a travel destination is safe despite several terrorist threats and attacks in the region.
“I want to let the world know that Uganda is safe. All parts of Uganda including the north is safe for tourism,” he had said. He also invited the guests, a mix of locals, Ugandans from other areas and tourists from other countries to tour other parts of northern Uganda.
He also decried the encroaching of the national parks and called for Ugandans to respect and preserve the beauty.
After the viewing and singing of the national anthem, the crowd dispersed to the various accommodations scattered over Pakwach, Nebbi towns and in the nearby Murchison falls park, as others started the journey back to their homes. It was a day to remember.