CYNTHIA MWALE, Lusaka
IN MY globe-trotting experience, last week’s trip to Kampala was rather the most hectic but thrilling one. It was
chaotic in the sense that the tim-ing for my flight was awkward and I had to move from one conference hall to another to gather and condense so much information in the area I am pas-sionate about – agriculture.
From KKIA, my flight was at 02:00 hours through Nairobi to Entebbe and, finally, I drove to Kampala, where I was attending the 13th CAADP Part-nership Platform meeting among 400-plus delegates from 55African Union member states, including global development partners and other stakehold-ers.
Coiled under the theme ‘Strengthening mutual accountability to achieve CAADP Malabo goals and target”, the purpose of the meeting was anchored on three objectives which ultimately have a thrust to escalate systems in agricultural transformation and development as the sector has massive potential job and wealth creation.
At KKIA, the weather was chilly and I could not imagine that I had to wait for three hours in my sleepy state, before I could board the plane. Shortly, I proceeded for my immigration checks and, lonely, waited in the lounge before I was soon joined by this beaming face – it was one of Zambia’s re-nowned entrepreneurs, Sylvia Banda, who recognised me and made the wait worthwhile. We conversed on the many business opportunities.
The platform was set. Finally, it was time for us to board and, just like other passengers, it was past our bedtime and we took off.
After an hour being airborne, a passenger who sat a few rows behind me started gasping for breath. She was made to lie on the floor of the aisle, as a nurse and some passengers, who were calm, managed to resuscitate her – all this was happening while I was in my deep sleep and only heard about it as we walked briskly to connect onto another flight.
“Ba journalist, you have missed a story…,” Mrs Banda, who witnessed the incident, jokingly said.
Surely, I missed an opportunity to tell the story the way it happened and all I said was, “Iyee, you should have woken me up.”
At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the wait was bearable, for about 30 minutes, and we queued to board for Entebbe International Airport. As I tried to get comfortable and take a nap, the pilot announced that we were to start descending in 25 minutes and I struggled to keep my heavy eyelids wide open.
After we touched down at 08:15 hours, we were ‘greeted’ by the warm temperature (23oC) and in my winter clothing and drowsiness, it was another agony.
I went through the health check for yellow fever and later immigration procedures before meeting the driver who was on hand to receive the delegates. Again, here we had to wait in the scorching heat for others to join us before walking to the shuttle.
From the airport, we drove through the buzzing traffic and humid climate to the meeting venue. We arrived at the luxurious five-star Speke Resort Mun-yonyo facing Lake Victoria slightly after10:00 hours (local time, which is an hour ahead of Zambian time) and couldn’t help but to head to the reception to fill in our credentials in order to get rooms.
After freshening up, I decided to check my emails and, to my surprise, found several invitations for side events the following morning before the main meeting opened. Immediately, I rejuvenated looking at the busy day that awaited me.
That Wednesday morning, I headed for breakfast and later attended the meetings and continued on Thursday, which was a rainy day and, finally, on Friday – the closing day. The anxiety was setting in as I looked forward to my tedious-scheduled flight back home.
We had to check out by 12:00 hours (the last cluster for the bus shuttle to the airport) in readiness for the 21:40 hours flight from the security-tight En-tebbe International Airport via Nairobi to KKIA in the early hours of Sunday.
Prior to the departure day, I linked up with Mrs Banda and a fellow delegate from the University of Zambia to strategise on the movement. I then called my niece who is based in Entebbe to ask if she could pick us up around 10:00 hours to go and move around Kampala as we had so much time during our travel.
We were picked and went to Owino market where we spent most of our time as I could not go to Namugongo Catholic Shrine to celebrate 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day which fell on Saturday, June 3. The roads leading to the sacred area for my blessings was clogged and I was scared of missing my flight. My consolation, though, was that I had visited the place seven years ago.
My niece, who has lived in Uganda for over two decades, was our tour guide to the second largest market in Africa for several items, from clothes to household goods, including traditional wear. She had parked her car in a secure place in town.
At the climax of my visit, I was to board a bodaboda (motorcycle) and manoeuvred through the traffic – my first experience was hilarious but scary!
After doing the shopping, we drove to the airport amid traffic. We checked in and proceeded for security checks. Finally, we were on the plane although one of the delegates briefly misplaced her passport and was left behind.
Exhaustion or not, creepy or not, we go chasing after stories and they need to be told the way things happened.