BUWEMBO: Hi Alexa! Hi Siri! Why do they rail on in utter ignorance about Gatuna?

Thursday November 28 2019

Instead of the megaphone, tech-savvy Uhuru whips out his iPhone and goes, “Hi Alexa!” Seeing the embarrassed look on his older colleagues’ faces he switches mode and says “Hi Siri..”. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NGARI | NMG


On November 9, the world marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Old footage from archives showed the famous, rather provocative speech made by US president Ronald Reagan a couple of years before the fall at the wall from the West Berlin side, calling on his Soviet counterpart to “tear down this wall” to “set your people free” and other strong phrases.

We can safely assume that all six heads of state in the East African Community at some point listened to Reagan’s speech, and that this month’s anniversary made them reflect, however, briefly on it.

To celebrate three months since the Ugandan and Rwandan leaders signed the Luanda agreement to keep their common border open, it would be a good idea to hold a summit of East African Community (EAC) six presidents at Gatuna border point between the two countries.

Neither Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni nor Rwanda’s Paul Kagame would do a Reagan and carry a megaphone to the summit to send a strong message to the other leaders; so the occasion would be dominated by taking stock of the gains that have been made in the 90 days since the decision to open the border was made.

Technical teams accompanying the presidents would of course be from Immigration and Trade departments from Kigali and Kampala, to report to the summit and the region in general how many hundreds of thousands of people have formerly crossed the border points between the two sister states since the solemn signatures in Luanda.


The trade officials would then optimistically report on the growing volumes that have been registered in the 90 days especially the tonnes of foods, tonnes of building materials, the millions of francs and shillings.

The alternative, Reagan-style presentation at the Gatuna summit to the East Africans would be more interesting though: President Museveni speaks in a booming megaphone pointed in the Rwanda direction thus: “General Kagame, sir, set your people free!”

Then President Kagame responds using his own megaphones thus, “General Museveni, sir, set my people free!”

Unimpressed, President Nkurunziza sneers at the five fellow presidents, and turns his back to them.

President Magufuli then picks up his giant megaphone and says, “Which officials are delaying things at the common border? Is immigration or customs? Vuta wote! Fagiya gasiya!”

President Salva Kill picks up his megaphone and says sadly, “You people thought my people have no feelings, eh! You have been talking about my government not paying the dues to the EAC secretariat as if you don’t see our problems. You who have money cannot even talk to each other. You were laughing when Bashir lectured me and Machar about living peace.

Now Tshisekedi is mediating between Rwanda and Uganda. Have you two forgotten your history in Congo and Kisangani?”

Finally, everyone turns to President Uhuru Kenyatta to hear his take. Instead of the megaphone, tech-savvy Uhuru whips out his iPhone and goes, “Hi Alexa!” Seeing the embarrassed look on his older colleagues’ faces he switches mode and says “Hi Siri..”.

The colleagues look even more embarrassed thinking he is addressing some sweetie. So goes more traditional and goes, “Mr Google sir, we have a situation here...”

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]