Where were you on the 27th of August 2010 circa 10:25pm?
Most of my fellow middle-class Kenyans decided to watch history being made in the comfort of their living-rooms at home. That was their choice.
But I, as an able-bodied, sound-minded, patriotic Nairobian had to see it with my own eyes. I tried reaching out to friends and colleagues to tag along but they all cowered. Some planned to spend the eve of Promulgation Day in and out of clubs in Westlands (Bend-over Thursdays, I believe it’s called), while most of you thought that going to Uhuru Park for this historic and unprecedented event was either the funniest or the craziest thing you’ve ever heard.
Al-Shabaab grenade attack?
This particular fear was justified at the time especially given the tragic grenade attacks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala a few months back not to mention the twin grenade detonations in Uhuru Park during a church-crusade/No-Campaign rally. My Rwandan buddy also mentioned how grenade attacks have also become common in Kigali which for me only meant that the East African Community needs to address the issue of proliferation of small arms and Kenya in particular needs to do something about our porous borders with Somalia. But as far as deterring me from going to Uhuru Park, an al-Shabaab threat wasn’t going to scare me. (Keyword being: ‘threat’). Besides, I know a lot of Kenyans who flew all the way to Washington DC to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration (sans invitation, might I add) and the rest of you certainly entertained the thought of making the trip, notwithstanding time and financial constraints. But when you’re invited to stroll over to Uhuru Park and witness history, you decline?
Mingling with PEV perpetrators?
I was told that if I went to Uhuru Park I’d be squished with mobs of Kibera residents, watu-wa-majengo, riff-raffs and the most unsavoury characters the city of Nairobi has to offer. I’d like to confirm that you were right about that. In fact I was squashed in between the rowdiest smelly loud heckling mob of Kenyans ever. Although we were all frisked at the Park entrance, these energetic individuals made sure their voices and scream would not be silenced and this was clear in their chorus of praises, boo’s and insults hurled at VIPs as they strolled past them on their way to the red carpeted dais. For instance, I vividly remember the moment Museveni’s motocade pulled up, the mob immediately started chanting: “Migingo!” “Migingo!”. Then after the procession of Kenya’s military might, one of them retorted: “Museveni amejionea hio kweli?!!”
Bad weather conditions?
One of the other reasons I was discouraged from going to Uhuru Park had to do with the unpredictable weather expected and the lack of cover at the Promulgation venue. It was either going to be a hot dry morning which would mean stuffy conditions, dusty air and very high chance of fainting or getting sick. The second option was wet conditions which would mean having to stand in pouring rain for three straight hours. So that evening I made it a point to ascertain what the ‘exact’ weather conditions would be like and use that as a factor to influence my attendance at the Promulgation ceremony.
On that note, I find it interesting that KBC is the only tv station that still does a comprehensive weather report (a la Ngutah Francis). That being said, I’m glad the weather that day was cool with scattered drizzles because there was so much body heat generated from people squashed together sardine-style, not to mention the occasional cool breezes blowing by to even out the stuffy air in the crowd.
This fear had some merit. First and foremost, the section of Uhuru Park demarcated for the public to stand is not level but on a steep incline. Secondly, the relatively damp conditions meant that the ground was muddy and quite slippery. Therefore as more and more people filled the Park, there were powerful waves of backward and forward pushing within in the crowds. For fear of falling and being trampled under the multitude of feet, we were all forced to hold on to each other’s shoulders and encourage each other to keep our feet planted on the soggy floor. Ofcourse, there were those unscrupulous men that took advantange of the situation to cop feels on the women present but generally this experience got me to witness first-hand just how unified, celebratory and positive the general mood was among all those who were gathered to watch the ushering-in of the Second Republic.
Trigger-happy cops on high alert?
Administrative police, General Service Unit, Military police, you name it; they were there manning strategic stations all over Uhuru Park. I was surprised to find them conducting security checks and frisking people as they poured into the venue. They were all armed and seemed prepared for any eventuality arising from having the entire country congregated at one place. When we managed to get into the Park and squeeze ourselves amongst the masses, as close to the front as possible. The police stood hawk-eyed observing us as we shouted, booed, heckled and cheered. For those who were caught loitering or attempting to approach the VIPs podium, officials would apprehend them immediately and drag them out by their balls far off where I assume they were properly ‘dealt with’. I must say on this day, the police definitely ensured that there were no major security incidents.
In short, Promulgation Day at Uhuru Park was not without its minor hitches and logistical inconveniences but all in all it was well worth the trip!