The Vice President, Michael Wamalwa died in London about three weeks ago. National hysteria set in. A two week official period of mourning was declared and the country virtually ground to a halt. VP Wamalwa was swiftly elevated to hero status.
Mr Wamalwa was a Luhya, his homeland in the Western Province. Bungoma, became the central place of mourning as one of the main towns in the Province. Mr Wamalwa’s elevation to hero status involved his body lying in state for three days and then being trundled around the countryside for citizens to gawp at wail and weep.
Unfortunately, the final day of gawping coincided with the ACE office opening in Bungoma. We followed the entourage, body and wailers around Bungoma, a town largely unknown by the majority, which had now suddenly become front-page news over night. Excitement was such that the stadium where the viewing took place was so overcrowded with mourners, all queuing up for their share of the million loaves of bread, hundred slaughtered cows and tonne of ugali prepared for the celebration, that the barriers collapsed and a full scale riot ensued. Police from all areas of the district were called in and tear gas administered. The Bungoma fiasco made headline news.
Meanwhile ACE was quietly trying to go about its business of establishing and opening the office. Our enthusiasm started to wane as the surrounding chaos ensued. Millions of people crammed the dusty street. The road engulfed the masses as they tried to avoid the enormous potholes. All shops and businesses were closed. The population of Bungoma had tripled and the majority were either drunk or wailing. The ACE team stopped in at the infamous Tourist Hotel. An anomaly in itself as Bungoma doesn’t have any tourists and the establishment can in no way be classed as an ‘hotel.’ The usual three punters were absent. They had gone to the ‘viewing’, so we settled in for a drink and a chat.
May VP Wamalwa rest in peace but with all due respect, his demise has caused considerable disruption to the inauguration of ACE.
We rented an office and today was the day to collect the keys. It is in the ‘Tourist Hotel Annex.’ Not specifically of our choosing but merely by default as there are no other office blocks in Bungoma. Our office was reserved for us but we arrived we found someone else in it, hence why we had to have our first meeting in the ‘anomaly’ that is the Tourist Hotel’ until the intruders were removed. The car served well in the interim as keeper of office equipment and kitchen utensils. We rented a house too but the renovation has been delayed and at present it has no roof. Our office is on the second floor. It is the only one on this floor that is occupied. The rest resemble remnants of the blitz, shell like concrete cubes, window less and cracking. Our office is remarkable in that it has windows, walls and a door. The door did have a handle, but today it fell off and we find ourselves using a spanner to open it. We can’t buy a new handle because apparently they don’t sell them in Bungoma. We were promised electricity three days ago but the sockets still have multicoloured wires hanging out of them and the lights don’t work. Apparently the last tenants were parasites and fixed a cable to the office below and bled their bill. I am hoping that we can start off on a more conventional note but the instillation of official electricity is dependant on the electrician’s speedy recovery. He has a bout of malaria. The application for a phone line is underway, Telkom are coming to ‘view’ the building in a week’s time. I am not sure what they are hoping to find.
And so it is today that in amongst this chaos, ACE is born.