A Diaspora Perspective:JKIA-The Vultures are Gone!
When one arrives at Dulles international airport or any other US Airport from oversee, and by the time one gets to the customs desk, the blue card is filled with yes and no questions. These questions are supposed to reflect the truth about the issues the government has declared necessary to be answered by anyone entering the United States, The foundational principle and the immigration officers approach is guided by trust and the faith in the individual answer. Never had my answers questioned as to their truthfulness. This does not mean that they do not search one’s bag here and there to affirm their faith in the system.
Recently, I wrote an article on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s discribing the “vultures”. At the customs desk, there used to be uniformed officers from almost all security departments. The customs officers themselves seemed to use the presence of these uniformed officers to intimidate Kenyans who were returning home from wherever, often making them cough out some chai for “Illegal” goods, like new shirts bought as a gift to a brother, or a shoe bought for a sister.
This time, after travelling from Miami international airport, an airport whose demographics have shifted over the years to contain Spanish speaking everybody, boarded the Swiss air for the motherland. It is Christmas and although my nephew had desired to host me for a barbecue in Cider Park, Texas, the place for great beef and mash Mellon, the call of the jungle and the keeping of going back to the village for Christmas out weighed the great temptation. I noticed something interesting in Zurich. I have been travelling through this moderate airport for a while but did not notice the double standards.
When flying in from Africa, the passengers do not enter straight into the lobby; rather they are subjected to a search before the lobby. However, when coming from the United States, the passengers walk straight to the terminal lobby. Strange. But I think I can understand the skepticism to the African security check systems. On the last flight from Nairobi to United States, at one of the security checks inside the airport before boarding, a Kenyan Somali was stopped for carrying some narcotics. I left the screener talking tough to him and boarded the plane. Few minutes latter, the guy also boarded the plane. I was taken aback but not surprised. Most laws in Kenya become law only after the person is unable to disqualify them through “tuogee Philosophy”.
At JKIA, they are still working on the terminals therefore we had to disembark on the tarmac. But before we could get off the plane, the captain announced, “all the business class passengers will exit from the front of the plane but all the other passengers will exit from the rare of the plane. I apologize for that it is some rules they have here.” You could hear in his voice disqusetment that even at the airport, those who have money must be treated differently from the rest of the group! I bet you it is some politician who wanted to feel important walking out of the airport
with a sign on his forehead, “ I flew fast class”. What a crappy law! Who comes up with these idiotic rules in Kenya?
I would say from there the buses were excellent. Whether they were donated by Swiss air or were provided by the KAA, those buses meet every standard you can imagine. At the immigration desk, the personnel were professional, but what I really appreciated were the customs officials manning the station on the Christmas Eve. Three well dressed young Kenyans who acted without malice or ill intention. They asked question not with doubt but having faith that this Kenyan coming for Christmas has nothing illegal. The young man acted with such grace and professionalism, I thought I was in Dulles international airport.
It is these kinds of experiences that we the common mwananchi desire to see in our country. The complexity of the nonsensical 20-30 visions means nothing to us when we get harassed on the way home for Christmas. It is the drive that I took from the airport through the modern Kikuyu bypass, the comfort and the lack of chaotic matatus, the well lighted road and well marked signs that rekindle our faith in our institutions.
But of all the observations of institutions and events from Miami to Nairobi, nothing beats the gathering of family friends and neighbors in the village of Kijabe for Christmas. The Maasai called it Kijabe meaning the ‘the place of cold winds’. But keeping the tradition of our fathers who gathered here to celebrate Christ and his gift of eternal life makes it a place of good tidings and Joy!
May your journeys next year keep you curious, but may they arrive at a place where Christ is Lord.
Happy New Year
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
CEO Bibilia Broadcasting Network BBN-TV Kenya
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist