Following the incident where I was roughed up by Joe Biden’s men-in-black, I have been cautious not to be over-enthusiastic when it comes to providing my protocol services to Minister Mambo wa Kigeni and the ministry of Foreign and Overseas Affairs in general. For, those across-the-Atlantic security men with bulging ambits would have actually dispatched me to the hereafter simply for my appetite and zeal to shake Joe’s hand and hopefully drop in a quick one for a green card, my ultimate passport to Uncle Sam’s land of milk and honey.
For the better part of last month, I was in this state of acquiescence; arriving home before the 7.00 pm, like all responsible men of the house do. I was doing this with so much dedication, the airport incident providing the sobering background for the need for me to keep to my protocol job without overreaching or having delusions of grandeur.
When His Excellency Minister Mambo wa Kigeni noticed my new found dedication, he even tipped me with 100 US dollars which immediately went into a hefty purchase for home provisions. Of course as a family that prays together and eats together, I took along my wife Angelica and our daughter Anampiu to the shopping mall.
Asumpta, the tea-cum-porridge-cum-juice girl even commended me for taking on a diplomatic mien when I told her ‘sorry’ after accidentally stepping on her in the ‘box’, which is how we call our tiny, hemmed in office that doubles up as the kitchenette. Rosalinda, the new secretary, began giving me leftovers of Mambo wa Kigeni’s meals (not a bad thing considering Mambo wa Kigeni hardly touched the meals brought to his office). The stern looking, unsmiling official driver-cum-gun-handling security man, Odhis Papa, took a major risk, taking advantage of Mambo wa Kigeni’s absence to drop me home in the official limousine.
Mid last month however, His Excellency summoned me to his office and given the good manners I had exhibited lately, I was certain he would be promoting me to the position of third secretary that I had long coveted and even applied for. “Make arrangements for travel to Kasozi ka Impala”, His Excellency said in his usual curt manner.
“Eeer! Kasozi? His Excellency, I am sorry I don’t understand, please I request…” I stammered.
“Of course, you do not know that Kampala is originally the grazing fields of Kabaka’s royal Impala”, he cut me short, eyeing me from above the rims of his spectacles. “I am, or, we are going for the African Union Summit. Prepare”, he concluded and I instantly realised the brief was that brief.
As I walked back via the reception area, I noticed my swagger was back and I did not try to limit my bouncing gait. Rosalinda also noticed the illumination on my face, but before he could say anything, I cockily told him: “Off too Kampala we go baby”.
At the box, I ordered Asumpta to make me a cup of coffee with a lot of milk, filling her in that I was off to Kasozi.
“Now what has gone to your head? Old habits die hard. What is Kasozi?” she asked.
I do not provide free education. A cup of coffee!” I ordered with superior intonation. She obliged and I told her that I was off to Kampala for the AU meeting.
Next, I went to the parking lot and told Odhis Papa to make sure the limousine was ready the following day to deliver the minister to the airport. I left no doubt in him as to who was boss, for which he gave me a sadist glance, but did I care?
The following day, I was at the airport with the break of dawn. His Excellency arrived one hour later and we started moving towards the clearance desk. The minister passed the screening machines express. Though I was immediately behind him, I was stopped apparently because I did not have a diplomatic passport. The security officers meticulously went through my hand luggage, literally sniffing at everything and holding up my innerwear. Then one of them used a metal detector to thoroughly check my body, I mean every part of my anatomy. All this took over fifteen minutes, by the time they were through with me, I was livid with frustration. I took His Excellency’s briefcase and weighing my hand luggage on the either shoulder, I dashed for the VIP lounge. To my utter dismay and consternation, I saw the minister leave towards the aeroplane just as I made my way into the lounge. To make matters worse, the orderly at the lounge closed the door as soon as the minister had passed through it. I broke into a sweat and started explaining to the orderly my role and how I was linked to His Excellency.
“Sorry”, he told me, “our new anti-terrorism rules say only assistant ministers; ambassadors and their seniors can use these facilities”. With this, he politely led me out of the lounge. I took to my heels headed for the common lounge, only to find another body and luggage check queue. I tried to jump the queue but the other passengers complained loudly and in unison, such that I went to the tail of the line.
Just then, one of the security details called out my name and I proceeded to where he was standing.
“You are just a hyena; the aeroplane is being delayed because of you. Were it not for the minister the aeroplane would have left without you. Come through, you troublesome man”, he ordered in crass Swahili, but I cared little about his belittling invectives. All that mattered was that I was going to make it for the trip – after all.