Here is a travel advisory to all Ugandans planning to travel to the UK: “Following the rioting and looting that has spread across one of the world’s richest countries, all Ugandans, East Africans and Indians planning to travel to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are advised to rethink their travel plans. It is advised that only trips of absolute necessity be made.
Since many Ugandans wed in August, those intending to have their honeymoon in the UK are advised to avoid London, where many tourist attractions have been torched by rioters. If they fly to Heathrow, they should desist from leaving the airport for the city.
Instead, they could take an onward flight to the Outer Hebrides, where there is plenty of sheep and a bit of wind. They can enjoy a quiet honeymoon there. If they really have to go to mainland Britain, they are advised not to travel together – the bride can go to Scotland and the husband to Wales.
With the Premier League kicking off on Saturday, we understand that many Africans support Manchester United. Those intending to watch that team are advised not to go to Old Trafford as there has been a lot of lawlessness there. It is quieter the other side of town and they can support Manchester City, at least for a few weeks till things settle down at Old Trafford when rioters and hooligans like Sir Alexandria Fergal have been cleared out. Manure FC needs a suave Italian sophisticate like the Monkeys’ Alberto Monzini or Silvio ‘I Love Them All’ Berlusconi, to clean it out, not a gum-chewing decadent.
There have been visa applications for Liverpool. We understand that Liverpool FC will remain in mid-table mediocrity, and there were riots at their Anfield Stadium. All the seats were looted from their Kop End ‘Kirussia’ stand. There is likely to be more excitement across town, as Everton FC is expected to fight relegation all season long.
Since the rioting started in Tottenham, the local football club, Tottenham Hotspurs, will be shut down like the ‘News of the World’ newspaper. Spurs’ Ugandan fans are advised to team up with those of nearby Arsenal, as only a joint effort would see North London win the Premier League. Is there a Ugandan goalkeeper with a visa? Since neither club has a decent goalie, they will have to field four Arsenal defenders and four Spurs defenders jointly, till a good East African like John Masajjage or Mahmoud Abbas turns up.
Harry Redknapp will be a ball boy till the new transfer window, while Arsene Wenger will be interdicted and sent to the London School of Economics for a refresher course on training title-winning brands. The Metropolitan Police has advised that Chelsea fans from Najjanankumbi do not waste time, since Stamford Bridge is one of the bridges on the River Thames that collapsed as police chased rioters.
Chelsea FC will therefore take a dead season; and anyway their trophy room has been looted by Arsenal and their Spurs girlfriends. Meanwhile the Olympics may be postponed. South Africa is on standby.”
End of advisory
Okay, I exaggerate; fantasise even. But that is what travel advisories made by developed countries about Third World societies are – exaggerated, in negative fantasy, devastating. A bursting tyre in Kansanga, an exploding stove in Kireka just may bring out a travel advisory. But should it? Greater London, being 20 or 30 times the size of Kampala, is simply too big to chase us all away. Riot-bound Tottenham and Croydon are as far apart as Bombo and Bwebajja. In between is a lot of peace and tranquillity, as we Ugandans say.
Some Ugandans love cricket and have been enjoying the Test Series between England and India. Had it been the reverse and riots broke out in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai while England were touring, what would the advice be to the team and its travelling Barmy Army band of drunken supporters?
It is said that about 150 languages are spoken in Tottenham. That, in essence, is the problem and the opportunity. How does the UK absorb all the different cultures in a grand multicultural society? How will it give them all real opportunities?
The England cricket team, soon to be Number 1 in the world, has given opportunities galore. The core of it – Pietersen, the captain Strauss, the wicketkeeper Prior, and the lynchpin batsman Trott – were born in South Africa. As hardened Africans, is that why they are happy to go ahead with next week’s Third Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham, the equivalent of Bugembe in Jinja?
When some Ugandans walk to work, and a few tear gas canisters are tossed at them in Kalerwe, it is not the whole country up in flames. Travel advisories need to be well thought-out, for the effect they can have on the target country and on the private lives of travelling foreigners. It really hurts us, the little countries, quite a lot. We hope our big brothers will learn something.