One can never know the need for sisterhood or brotherhood until they are far away from home. Uganda celebrated its 58th independence on October 9, while Ugandans living in Nairobi, Kenya celebrated it on October 10.
My co-host Nandy and I, were planning and organising but wondered how the day would turn out. On behalf of the organisers, we chose October 10, after consulting our seniors, who agreed that it was a good day to have akabaga (small party).
Also, the date coincided with a public holiday in Kenya, thus our target audience would turn up.
Make it happen
On Friday evening, I focused on what would make Ugandans feel at home. I enlisted: traditional food and I asked my co-host about how easy it was to find Uganda Waragi (spirit), Uganda Anthem or even the East African singing challenge to ignite patriotism. And, what about a fun box with random questions? How would we pull off this event?
There is one family Ugandans Friends Connekt Platform, a WhatsApp and Telegram groups for Ugandans studying, living and working in Kenya which becomes family for whoever joins it.
If you are new in Nairobi, it is a family that will make you feel at home; accommodative for both introverts and extroverts. In fact, we relied on these groups to mobilise people for the event.
I am an extrovert and who always wants to see people happy and comfortable. On D-day, a one Barbra and her husband called and said, “Carol we are coming to the venue. We were also told you are from Mbarara, what a small world that we are going to meet another person from home!”
The statement raced my heart and before I could settle, Austin called: “Carol, I am coming for the Uganda get-together. A friend told me. We don’t know each other, but what matters is that we are Ugandans and I am coming to join you guys. Just drop me the location pin.”
The show must go on
As all this happened, I was weighed down by the Covid-19 impact on the people in the diaspora. They have taken long without seeing their people and also not met physically; and since Zoom meetings are the new normal, we would have opted for a Zoom party.
We agreed to have it physically but observe the standard operational procedures (SOPs) by the Ministry of Health in Kenya.
At one point, the restaurant manager where we had the party asked, “Carol, your people are continuing to come in, will the food be enough?” And to his amusement, I reminded him that Uganda is a food basket and we believe in sharing. “We shall serve the people whatever is available.”
All we had to do was to ensure that people have a Kampala experience in Nairobi. We were lucky that the high commission in Kenya contributed to the costs of the day.
Children, old and young professionals, the marrieds, singles and well-wishers came through. Some clad in Uganda jerseys and others in branded T-shirts.
This provided an opportunity for Ugandans to show solidarity, unity, love and Ubuntu for Uganda. Enjoying our food such as the “tooke” well steamed in banana leaves, the smoked beef in peanut paste, Ugandan traditional dances crowned by famous Jerusalema dance challenge made the fun count.
Jacqueline Wabyona Banana, the head of Chancery, represented the Uganda High Commission in Kenya.
She was accompanied by Evelyne Namatende, the administrative attaché. Banana congratulated Ugandans upon the 58th Independence Day celebrations and encouraged us to embrace and work towards this year’s theme “Celebrating Uganda’s steady progress towards economic take off and self-sustaining economic growth”.
The diplomat appreciated the cooperation between the High Commission and Ugandans living in Kenya. She pledged that the embassy would keep promoting unity, love, patriotism, and extend any other help needed by Ugandans living in Kenya to have a sense of belonging.
The day was successful because of the efforts of the Ugandan friends in Kenya. It was a home away from home experience.