- Published on Saturday, 29 June 2013 03:00
- Written by LAWI JOEL
- Hits: 1047
IF Kenya Airways did not have two flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam on Friday, I would not have made it on time. I was going to Kogelo village to talk to the US President Obama’s step-grandmother, Mama Sara, a grand lady I later came to find out to be a genial and forthcoming personality.
The flight had been hastily arranged and soon I would be leaving for Nairobi. From there I would travel by bus to my destination, hopefully with pleasure. But first, I was to be accordingly equipped, financially and materially.
I would travel conveniently if I took the first flight and the morning plane to Nairobi. Everything else went well except the financial part of the journey. Because the plane would take off at 10 am and reporting time was 8 am, I went straight to the airport while the cashier took the cheque to the bank and drew the money for me. Unknown to both of us, we would not make it.
By the time the cashier brought me the money at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, the checking in time was over. I had, however, done the wisest thing to do under the circumstances or so I thought it was.
I asked the authorities at the entrance to the checking in room and saw the airline personnel about the matter. I told them I wanted to declare myself present although I would still have to settle a matter outside.
It was a man and he looked up my name in the manifest in the computer. “All right, you are there,” he said. “Now can I go back outside and settle the matter first?” I asked him. But when the cashier came to the airport and financially equipped for the trip, the checking in time was closed and over. I was bitter. I did not want anybody else, in connection with my trip, to do anything that would make me fail in my work.
I went to Kenya Airways agent at the airport. I was lucky. There was another flight the same day later in the afternoon. “I can put you on that,” he said. Getting another flight to Nairobi beside, there was something else I felt I must settle with these people on the very day. “Why on earth had the plane left me while I had already reported to the checking out desk and they knew I was there?” He smiled and said: “You had not reported.” “But I had,” I said emphatically.
“No, you had not because they did not give you a boarding pass.” Damn it! So who was to produce the boarding pass if a passenger showed up at the reporting desk, I or they? Unknown to me, there had been a technical snag in the whole matter. If I had formally reported at the desk and checked in, I would never have been allowed to go out again and do whatever it was I wanted to settle.
“That is never allowed,” he said and he told of an incident that had since then taught the air a lesson. One Air India was flying from Montreal. Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the Montreal-London-Delhi route. On 23 June 1985, the aircraft operating on the route – a Boeing 747-237 21473/330, reg VT-EFO) – was blown up by a bomb at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 m).
It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while in Irish airspace. A total of 329 people were killed, including 268 Canadians, 27 British citizens and 24 Indians. The incident was the largest mass murder in Canadian history and the deadliest aviation disaster to occur over a body of water. It is also the worst aviation disaster in Irish territory. Investigation into the explosion found out that the aircraft had been blown up by some two Sikh terrorists from Canada, who had placed a bomb in a suitcase, but had checked out again just before the aircraft left the airport and exploded by radio.
“It was similar to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,” he explained. The agent told me that had I checked in but failed to fly to Nairobi because of some problem, I would have been delayed at the airport until the aircraft landed safely in Nairobi. “Because nobody would have understood why you failed to proceed with your journey, but instead decided at the last minute to abandon flight.
You were lucky you had not checked in,” he said. All is well that ends well, so they say and in the end I reached Kogelo where I had another big battle. It is not easy to see Mama Sara Obama and my two attempts to do so were blocked by a powerful presence of a police officer at the gate. When I reached her residence, an area of considerable size, about two acres and produced my papers and passport, the police office on duty there said that was not enough.
The local authorities had to be informed. Moreover the two people who must be with her to ensure she was asked and said the right thing, were away. It was Saturday and no offices were open. On Monday I was at the DC office early morning.
He was a young man who told me he was new to the place and could not answer any of my questions concerning Mama Sara Obama and her grandson, the US President Barrack Obama. Even before I asked for permission to see Mama Sara, the DC suggested I go to see her and talk to her on whatever I wanted to know.
He called the police prior to my arrival. Shortly later I was there; only to meet with another obstacle mostly insurmountable, but in my case not so resistant. The police officer was polite enough to say he had received the DC’s call.
Unfortunately, however, the assistants to Mama Sara were still away. Most important in my case was the interpreter, who must be there, on account of her poor Kiswahili, to ensure she understood well what she was asked.
This was now the time and place to come out in my true self. I told the officer that the language that gave them so much headache to get an interpreter, was also my mother tongue I could speak with the speed of a parrot or the pace of a slug, as need be.
“Then there is not problem,” the police officer said before giving me a thorough frisking. He checked my bag and then led me into Mama Sara Hussein Obama. It was a talk I will remember for a long time.
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