Nairobi grapples with impending Obama arrival

2015-07-09 18:38
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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With US President Barrack Obama's visit to Kenya now clearly in the horizon, the capital city Nairobi is struggling to make a good impression in time for his arrival.

If ever the phrase "work in progress" suited any place, it currently does Nairobi.

The city is cleaning up and preparing for the arrival of their son, with Obama's Kenyan association ensuring his first trip to the country as president of the world's only superpower will be as high profile as it gets.

Roads are being re-carpeted, lawns are being manicured and bushes even where the need is little are being removed.

Pavements have also been given a fresh coat of paint and flowers planted across the city. In short, Nairobi is as close to a standstill as it gets.

“We are under express orders to ensure that we are ready as soon as possible," George Ngugi, who is supervising a group of labourers relaying a pavement, tells News24.

The work starts as early as 06:00 and in places where lighting exists, to the late hours of the night.

In another part of the city, flowers are being planted in the middle of one of the main city highways. Water sprinklers are on full-time workload in a city that at times lacks water to serve its residents.

"Obama is coming. We have to shine," Alice Njeri who is working on the flowers says of the episode.

Some areas of the city that have not seen a broom in years are now being attended to. The word on the street is that Obama's itinerary is not clear which means he cannot find the city unclean if he happens on any location. Happy days for residents who have for years choked in uncollected garbage.

Street urchins have been kicked out. No one knows where to.

However, the ongoing beautification process comes with a problem.

With a lack of time for road repairs, most are being done during the day and thus a city that usually has serious traffic congestion now has to share its roads with road construction agencies. No one is happy.

"Why the knee jerk reaction," Juma Onsongo who now spends as many as three hours commuting to work as compared to the usual one hour says.

“They knew he was coming five months ago. Why react late and cause us this problem? We are dying in traffic jams," he complains.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero has called on City residents to be patient as the Obama charade goes on. After-all he says, the city and its residents will be the ones who gain in the long run.

“Nairobians should bear with us. It is a high profile visit and we know it has made life harder. But the world will set its sights on Kenya and we want to make a good impression and improve the image of our country," he pleads.

Kenyans hope it will.
Read more on:    barak obama  |  us  |  kenya  |  east africa

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