Never had I seen such remnants of war
Bullet halls decorated gorgeous buildings
Brazaville the capital city of Congo
Discovered by Brazza from Belgium
And named after him
Were there no people in this city?
Before the Belgian came?
I decided to call the city, Yetu
Yetu, Swahili for ours
I wrote the above poem on the morning of October 4th 2006, I woke up with a smile lodged firmly in my heart and on my face. I threw aside the blue bed cover that I often preferred to use instead of the woolen blanket beneath it. Every night when I climbed the stairs of my bungalow in Funguo Estate off Mbagathi Road, I would dive onto the well-spread bed and lie there until I started dozing, then I would toss aside the blanket and fall deep asleep beneath the bed cover.
On October 4th after emerging from the warmth of this bed cover, Laila was on my mind, hence the smile. I had met this dazzling Egyptian lady a few months earlier in a workshop that brought together members of the Africa Network of Environmental Journalists. Drawn from across Africa, this group of environmental journalists had come together to validate and provide input into a UNEP Handbook whose content production I was coordinating – Environmental Reporting for African Journalists. (Click here to download and read this Book).
After this workshop, Laila and I took off for Maasai Mara to explore the nature that we both adored. That morning when I woke up with Laila on my mind, I decided to write some poems for her since like me, she loved poetry. I called these poems, ‘A poetic journey through Africa’ and started with a poem about Congo Brazzaville, a country that I had visited earlier that year to attend the launch of the Africa Environment Outlook for Youth, a Publication that I had been working on for close to three years.
Upon arrival at Congo Brazaville, we were ushered to the VIP section because we were part of the UNEP delegation. VIP sections of airports in Africa are usually places that you can only glance at and envy the big-tummied government dignitaries as they saunter in and out of them proudly. On the many times that I had passed by VIP lounges on my way to the common people's waiting lounges, I had often wondered why VIP sections are needed to start with. I am not a big fan of that term - VIP. In my book, everyone is a VIP. Yet even as I lashed out internally, I would often wonder what it would be like to enter those VIP doors and enter lounges where I food, drinks and extreme comfort were free.
On that particular afternoon, I didn't have to wonder anymore. As soon as I alighted from the Kenya Airways flight in Brazaville, the capital city of Congo, I was ushered into the VIP section of the airport. Cool! I thought. I am a VIP after all! I looked around curiously as soon as I had strolled through those doors of Very Important People. Soft couches for your weary body, water dispensers for your thirst, coffee machines for your beverage cravings, soda machines for your sugar weakness, buffet bowls full of steaming food for your hunger and other VIPs for your snobbery.
I nonchalantly attacked the soda machine first. Luckily, I had discovered how to operate them on a trip to Dakar, Senegal when I became bored at the airport and decided discover how the coffee and soda machines operated. There wasn't much to discover because it was really just about slotting in coins and waiting for the paper or aluminum cans to be spitted out. Can you imagine if there were happiness machines, where you can just slip in coins and find yourself supremely happy? That would be… crazy. I actually think that real friends and family should be like happiness machines, only that you both need to invest time into building memories, and as you build those great memories, happiness will hug you, flow into you.
Back to Brazzaville, after I was done with two cans of Coke, I made my way to the bowls of food. We were only two of us there, all of us young. I reckoned that the other VIPs were snubbing the food as they didn't want anyone to think that it had excited them. Just as I was settling down in my soft couch to eat my hot food and drink my third can of cold Coke, a bevy of beautiful girls sashayed into the lounge and proceeded to announce in both French and English that, 'all the UN officials who have arrived for the Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment, please follow us.'
It turned out that at that moment, I was the only such UN official so it was my great pleasure to forsake my food and follow the lovely ladies.