Afghans refuse to board Uganda Airlines plane

Sunday August 22 2021
pp03pix

Tens of thousands of Afghans were racing Sunday to flee their country as the United States warned of security threats at Kabul's chaotic airport . PHOTO/ILLUSTRATION

By Jacobs Odongo Seaman

Many times on this page, I write lies. Not today. This one is as painfully real as watching Kadaga take office as deputy to Nabbanja.

I had been picked as one of the three journalists to cover the asylum of Afghan refugees. The Uganda Airlines plane touched down at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul at 13:00 GMT. At first, multitudes of Afghans scrambled to get to the plane.

Then something happened. A man pointed at the branding on the plane. One by one they started retreating. In no time they had all returned to the hanger.

It was only when we joined in what appeared like a meeting that bits and pieces of the puzzling scene started falling together. One of the Afghans demanded to know where Uganda is and stated in categorical terms that they were only supposed to go to the US or UK.

“I rather die in Kandahar than go to Africa,” a bald man said and sat heavily on the floor.
I first giggled and soon I was struggling to contain my heaving chest. The realisation of what the popular city has been turned into euphemism for something else was too much to bear.

A man started explaining to the asylum seekers of how Uganda was a free economy that would still be good for them than face the wrath of the Talibans but these guys would have none of it.

Advertisement

“I thought this was my chance to finally go to America but now they say Africa. Anyway, in which country is Uganda even? Is that in Egypt or Morocco,” a woman said.

“The phone says Uganda is in East Africa so that should be near South Africa but here is the funny message… they are saying we will live in the stadium where people were left to die from Covid-19,” a boy said, branding his smartphone.

“For you, at least you can arrive in that stadium but what of your sister? I hear their men have been camping at the airport waiting for our women,” a man said.

A man got up and walked toward the plane. He turned to look at the others while pointing at the plane. He then spoke in a language that was stranger than meeting Bad Black leading praise and worship choir in a church.

From the back of my head, I could make out that he was saying the plane was the “same Boeing” that got delayed in Dar es Salaam because of fuel.

“How can we even be sure they have fuel?” an elderly man asked. “You there! Yes, you. Is there fuel in that thing or is this some trick you are playing so that you make an emergency landing right at a place where Talibans will be waiting for us? Is that what Idi Amin instructed you to do?”

I tried to smile to indicate that I didn’t understand their language but another man shot up and shouted that I was pretending. He added that he was very sure he had seen in the news something that said a letter the President of the “country on that plane” had written ordering the prosecution of the airlines bosses had disappeared.

“I’ve an idea,” said a senorita-looking specimen wearing a tent that only allowed what looked eyes to see through a mesh.

“I’ve read that those guys recently arrested a Lumbuye who is accused of killing an endangered species of animal on social media. They picked him up in Turkey but the plane has never landed in… what is the Africa even called?”“Luanda,” replied a yawning man.

‘No, Wakanda,” said another.
“That Africa is in Uganda Airlines, according to the plane,” said a boy.

The group clapped for the boy and stroked his hair. The lass announced that it is possible that the plane would fail to land in Uganda like the one that took Lumbuye from Turkey to Turkey.

“Then there is still a chance that we can land in America or Canada, right?” a man asked eagerly.
At this point, I decided I was done imagining what these fellows were saying to themselves. 

I put my phone down, flushed the toilet and got up to take my shower, right here in Mpumudde, Jinja.

Advertisement