All is well that ends well. Friday was one of those days when the news mill was bursting at the seams thanks to the anxiety around two events in particular. It was a time when many were anxiously waiting to see what happens next and how it does. The analysts had already penned their predictions exhausting different scenarios and sitting back hoping it all plays out just the way they it appeared in their crystal balls.
The phenomenal eight years of Barack Obama as president of the United States of America were coming to an end. I call them phenomenal because he was the first black US president; something many thought was not even a possibility in a country that is known for its deep racial issues. Well, he came, saw and conquered. Of course he also failed in some areas.
Enter the flamboyant billionaire Donald Trump who I initially thought was going to be like Ross Perot, you know rich with some money to spend but not really serious until it dawns on all of us that he was not joking. He is now the 45th president of the United States for at least the next four years.
During all the talk about Trump and Obama, the one line that bothers me a lot is when our media houses hammer on about what he (Trump) will do for Africa or when some say Obama did not do enough for Africa. Listen folks, an American president does not owe us any work. Like I always say, all politics is local. Whatever is foreign policy is driven by what is local.
Therefore whatever it is you expect or assume is done for Africa by someone in Washington is simply to do with American interests not your interests. More so, Africa is not a country and indeed those in Washington know this for a fact. In their books, Burundi is so different from Egypt and Swaziland is nothing like Djibouti.
Now that we are talking Africa, I must say it was good relief to know that the crisis in Gambia panned out well with the former leader agreeing to relinquish power to his rival in the recent election, Adama Barrow. The anxiety around this was the fear of another unnecessary war on the continent. The above two events had successfully taken all the attention away from Africa’s biggest football showpiece –Africa Cup of Nations.
The tournament already has to compete for attention with the English Premier League that is now arguably a global spectacle so the drama in Gambia and the US power transfer were simply pounding a wounded man. Uganda Cranes are East Africa’s only representative at the games unless you factor in our cousins from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The excitement about Uganda’s presence comes from the fact that the country had not featured since 1978 a time when most Ugandans alive today, were not yet even born. However the several near misses also play a role in this excitement. In the recent years these near misses have fuelled a new source of national pride that had become hard to find.
Before all this, Ugandans used to envy Kenyans who were attending Ugandan universities and always wore shirts with the words Kenya or the country’s emblem. Others had those now ubiquitous bracelets with the Kenyan flag. There was not much for Ugandans to be proud about then for them to wear it around.
Then Uganda Cranes started getting its act together and winning or refusing to lose games at the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole. The lovers of the game starting loving the team and one by one they bought replica jerseys for the matches. It later became cool to wear these jerseys even when there was no game being played.
When the team stepped out for its first game, one brave CEO ‘ordered’ his staff to wear Uganda Cranes’ jerseys to work, on a Wednesday. So many others did the same and selfies flooded the social media platforms. It was good to see Ugandans feeling the way Kenyans feel when their athletes or rugby 7s players perform well, even if the Cranes are yet to win anything at the continental stage.
The moral of the story is that sports success makes patriotism much easier to sell than anything else. It is good for the soul and very good for the economy. And this is not something that the American leaders will do for us.