Voices from the future: Nyerere, Mboya, Obote and Adde meet over 'chai' in 2065

Saturday October 07 2023

A cartoon illustration. PHOTO | POOL

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Mbinguni Old Town is a strange, but exciting, East African city from the future, that exists in the metaverse, a virtual space. Mbinguni was inspired in real life by Stone Town, the oldest part of Zanzibar City, and Lamu Old Town on Kenya’s coast, the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa.

It is the place where famous, infamous, nearly famous Africans from Heaven, Hell, and all sorts of afterlife mid-houses, go to shop and hang out. It is also visited by the souls of living beings on Earth – mostly on the last weekend of every month.

There is no anonymity in Mbinguni Old Town. Everyone wears a name tag. The fellows from Heaven, Hell, and after-life mid-houses are called Regulars. Their tags have Reg before their names. The souls of the living visit Mbinguni Old Town as avatars.

Read: OBBO: Why deposed Bongo wanted to be ‘East African’

The name tags for the avatars are marked Av. Mbinguni Old Town also welcomes avatars from the rest of the world; the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. They are known as Alien Avatars, so their tags have A-Av before their names.

Thus, the name tag for Uganda’s military dictator Field Marshal Idi Amin who died on August 16, 2003, would read “Reg Idi Amin”.


Visiting Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s avatar would be “Av Samia Suluhu Hassan”, or simply “Av SSH” depending on the mood of the Chief Issuer of Mbinguni Old Town. If superstar Beyonce dropped in, her tag would be “A-Av Beyonce.”

Mbinguni Old Town is the biggest African city – both in the “other” world and metaverse. One of its streets has many wonderful jewellery shops. Mansa Munsa’s is the leading jeweller there. There is a fish area, a food market, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, supermarkets, lounges, shoe shops, innovation hubs, tube lanes, the works. Nearly everything is in Mbinguni Old Town.

Every few months in The EastAfrican we shall report from Mbinguni Old Town, especially on the last week of a selected month, when the avatars of the living most visit to shop, chew the rug and play.

Read: OBBO: Khartoum's current militia nightmare was written in the stars way back in 1996

Today’s report is from the last week of January 2065. The place is Nyanza Age Café, on Timbuktu Avenue. On a large table in a corner is Reg Julius Nyerere, Reg Aden Adde (the spirit of Somalia’s first president), Reg Tom Mboya, and Reg Milton Obote.

There are no Avs or A-Avs in attendance. There are also no women and Reg Nyerere immediately raises the issue:

Reg NYERERE: Where are the women comrades? I was told Louise Mushikiwabo (Rwanda’s former foreign minister), and Wangari Maathai (Kenyan activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner) had been invited.

Reg MBOYA: The Issuer told me comrade Mushikiwabo is headlining a convention of the League of Mbinguni Old Town’s Women Champions. Sister Maathai turned down the invitation because the carbon footprint involved in delivering it to her was too high.

Reg OBOTE: Good to see you, Aden. We had been told you might not make it, exciting developments in Mogadishu Haven.

Reg ADDE: Yes, they are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Somalia’s admission to the East African Community. And, of course, there were elections last week, and the Reformed Al Shabaab party lost its first election in six election cycles.

Reg MBOYA: East Africa has truly shattered conventional wisdom. In many ways after 2020, one could see Somalia joining the EAC, but who could have imagined that an extremist group like Al Shabaab would reinvent itself as a centrist party and become one of the most electorally successful in the region?

Read: OBBO: Border reopening Somalia-EAC dreams, fulfils Shabaab wish

Reg NYERERE: If you look back into history, the seeds of that were always there in Somalia. Remember in the 1960s when Somalia was a parliamentary democracy it had over 60 political parties, and the Somali Youth League (SYL), had a nationalist and progressive tradition sprinkled with some pan-African elements.

Reg OBOTE: You could make that argument yes, but what surprises me more is that Ethiopia, and all countries in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti, and Eritrea joined the EAC when they did. What forces drove this?

Reg ADDE: No one thought it would be so, but the Amisom, later the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) missions, and the EAC turned out to be big forces for secularisation and internationalisation. But perhaps most significant, the scattered Somali nation emerged from the ashes as the most significant indigenous capital force in the region of the 21st century. That capital sealed the East African market.

Reg NYERERE: What we see today is something we used to joke about as “Kwame Nkrumah’s grand delusion”. You can travel by express train to either Bujumbura, Kigali, or Kisangani from either Dar es Salaam or Mombasa. The western DR Congo elite made the most dramatic ideological shift in the region, I believe. They were never really East Africanists and despised Kiswahili speakers.

Reg MBOYA: You talk about jokes, is there one bigger than the fact that Mobutu Sese Seko’s “authenticity” was reborn as one of the great African pride movements of this quarter of the 21st century?

Reg OBOTE: Maybe the good book was wrong when it said you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Reg ADDE: Well, who’d have expected that a Somali would be elected president in Kenya within three generations of the shifta wars, or that Sudan would provide the region’s first elected female president?

The report from Mbinguni Old Town will return at the end of the year.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». X@cobbo3