This morning I traveled to Entebbe International Airport to test the status of the travel ban that was imposed on me in March 2017. I checked in with KQ 421 heading to Nairobi, the city of my childhood as a refugee whose parents were fleeing from the dictatorships of deceased Idi Amin and deceased Milton Obote. I got my boarding card from a pleasant Kenyan brother with a smiling face. I hoped that the gods were smiling on me.
I went to empty my bladder; just in case the drama of the former travel ban repeated itself.
I made my way to the immigration post with a mixture of both excitement and fear. Memories of the trauma of being told I was on a No-Fly-List washed afresh over my entire being. Two passengers ahead of me were quickly served. Then it was my turn.
“Good morning,” I called out cheerily as I handed my passport and boarding card to the red-eyed tired-looking Immigration Officer.
She looked up at me with a bored look. And then she smiled. She scanned my passport into her computer. She rolled her red tired eyes. She scrolled down. Her eyes enlarged. And then she squinted. She frowned. She typed furiously into her computer for some seconds. Her mouth dropped. She whispered something-something to her neighbour who had stamped through ten people as I waited.
“Kyana kya mbogo,” he shouted at me.
“Ssebo,” I said to him.
“Gyebale awo!” He smiled and stamped another passenger’s passport.
His neighbour was rolling her eyes and whispering inaudibly into her phone. All I heard was that she needed clearance from Justus. I pulled out my notebook and wrote his name. I asked why she was holding onto my passport.
“There is a note against your names in our system,” she explained.
“Why is there a note against my names?” I asked.
“I don’t know. That is why I am consulting. But the person I consulted also has to call other people,” she explained.
She proceeded to ask me if I had clearance to travel. I told her that I have my passport and a boarding pass like all free Ugandans. She asked for the status of court case. I told her that my lawyers had written to the court about my trip. She asked this. And she asked that.
I asked her if I could sit aside as I waited for her bosses to call their bosses in ever rising echelons of power. I sat down to write my long post about the diminishing freedoms in Uganda.
After thirty-eight minutes of waiting, the officer with tired eyes told me that her shift was over. She had handed my documents over to the next shift. It was my turn to be bored and unamused!
After five minutes, a jolly voice called me.
“Madam Nyanzi, wama come and you go,” she said.
I sprung up with hope. I looked into the gently smiling eyes of the fresh-looking immigration officer starting her duty. She was wearing mauve lipstick that was close to my purple.
“Have I now been cleared by the bosses of the bosses of the bosses of Uganda?” I asked.
“I have stamped your passport and given it back to you. You are a Ugandan with a right to travel like any other Ugandan,” she said.
I nearly jumped up and down with excitement. I wanted to hug her. I almost ran to the boarding gates. Kenya here I come…
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