'Obamacare': Nairobi gets makeover for Obama's visit

2015-07-20 11:44
President Barack Obama. (File: AP)

President Barack Obama. (File: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - In Kenya, they've dubbed it 'Obamacare': potholes filled, new pavements and overnight flower beds, as Nairobi is spruced up for the capital's most awaited visitor, US President Barack Obama.

For the past month, hundreds of people have been employed to tidy the main highway from the airport to the city centre, often resulting in major traffic jams due to the road repairs.

"If traffic is bad now with this 'Obamacare', imagine what it will be when he actually comes," said taxi driver John Kemboi, his engine switched off as he waited in stationary traffic, bad even for the notoriously slow roads of the capital Nairobi.

"And won't Obama simply take a helicopter anyway?" he added, laughing at workers repainting faded road markings and laying new pavements on once muddy sidewalks.

Disappointed

Those working - sweeping the streets, cleaning the litter - are paid 400 shillings (around $4) a day.

"They are doing maintenance works like weeding, grass cutting," said city council official Leah Oyake.

"It is not enough, but we have nothing else to do," said 19-year old Jeremiah Wekesa, grumbling at his salary, but adding he is excited at the visit. "I am happy, it is good that Obama is coming. He's a Kenyan and it has been a long time."

Obama's visit next weekend will be his fourth to Africa since becoming US president, but his first to Kenya, his father's birthplace, since taking office in 2009.

But while celebrated as a hero throughout the country, many Kenyans have been disappointed it has taken him until almost the end of his second term in office to make the trip.

A presidential visit to Kenya had been put on ice while President Uhuru Kenyatta faced charges of crimes against humanity for his role in 2007-2008 post-election violence.

The International Criminal Court has since suspended that prosecution, citing a lack of evidence and Kenya's failure to co-operate, not to mention allegations of bribery and witness intimidation.

Street children not happy

But some are frustrated it has taken a visiting president to make the improvements.

"One wonders why it takes a distinguished guest to beautify the city," said taxi driver Douglas Mwangi.

The local council says it is splashing out some $440 000, but critics say the makeover is limited to a few official buildings and the routes taken by the US president's convoy.

The council insist the improvements are more than just for Obama.

"Nairobi is an economic hub in the region, and these improvements such as street lighting and cleaning of the city, will benefit all residents of the city," added Oyake.

Others are not so pleased, especially the street children being forced out from central areas.

"Everyday we get arrested," said Moses, a 16-year old who lives on the streets and sniffs glue.

"Before, we could enter the town but now it's too risky for us. We are begging for money when the cars are stopped in the traffic."

Obama’s autobiography

Excitement is growing. Kenya's Luo people - the tribe of Obama's father, who come from the western region towards the border with Uganda - are particularly proud, holding a recent celebration of music and dancing, dubbed the Luo Obama Festival.

"His father was a Kenyan - not only a Kenyan but a Luo by tribe," said businessman Jonathan Mweke. "We are happy, we are proud... he will be one of us."

In Nairobi, actors are rehearsing a musical stage version of Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father.

"This is a very important moment that we must capture as artists," said director George Orido.

"Music is a universal language so those who want to understand who Obama is, this big visitor who everyone is talking about... they can come and watch our play."

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  kenya  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.