Kenya’s Harambee Stars Vs Ugandan Cranes: The Journey to Kampala and Back

This weekend, a lot of African football was played. Teams were battling it out for a slot in the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN) to be played in January next year, hosted jointly by both Equitorial Guinea and Gabon.

Kenya and Uganda were in the same group, and I remember sneaking out of church (well, sort of) last year so I could catch the first leg of the match at Nyayo Stadium. Click to read my summary of them match last year! I had bet heavily on the game and might have had to change my nationality to Ugandan if we had lost. It ended in a 0-0 draw.

The buses were draped in the match banners! Excitement in the air was high!

Uganda was leading in the group which consisted of Kenya, Uganda, Guinea Bissau and Angola. Ugandans were confident, cocky, arrogant… they thought the match against Kenya was just a formality. If they beat us, as they knew they will, they would automatically qualify for the ACN. Since they were at home, and their team had an impressive run, their headlines in the newspapers were to the tune of “How to Celebrate the Cranes Win”, and clubs advertised how they will organize the winning party.

I had no idea how I was going to travel to Kampala, but luckily, Kalonzo Musyoka, our Vice President, offered to pay for football fans. I decided I was going to get on that bus somehow. Luckily for me, the VP is on twitter and he offered to pay for 200 tweeps to join the rest of the traveling fans. After hounding his account (I can be relentless he he), I finally ended up on the list of Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) who were sponsored for the trip which included free transport, 1000bob for food allowance and a free ticket. KEFOFA (KEnya FOotball Fans Association) organized the whole trip which was eventful as it was exciting!

We arrived at Nyayo Stadium on Friday afternoon where the rest of the fans were gathered. The VP was there to flag us off.. Because of the logistics of organizing, checking our luggage, briefing and finally take off, we left Nairobi at 9pm. We made a lot of noise as we cruised past the city’s highways which had been cleared of traffic for us!

Kenyan fans at Nyayo listen to the VP and other politicians give speeches at the Nyayo National Stadium shortly before flagging us off!

The journey to the border at Malaba was long but never boring. The KOT were a source of amusement as they called for numerous stops to empty and refuel (don’t ask!) their body systems.


A tweep, @kiraggz, with his cheering stuff in very high spirits (sic).

We finally made it to the border at 4am, where the processing of our documents by immigration on both sides would take hours! We had to wait for everyone to be cleared! In addition, we waited for the Kenyan ambassador to deliver our tickets, the Ugandan security forces to frisk us (though all they did was count us!) after which they accompanied our convoy to Kampala. We left the border at around 10am, after some fans had freshened up by taking ‘passport’ showers and brushing their teeth at the border tap/washrooms.

The ticket and allowance in hand 🙂

Onwards then to Kampala.. we were tired and hungry but that did not stop us from blowing our vuvuzelas, whistles and making plenty of noise as we waved our flags at any small townships along the way. We did stop for food at some Forest point where they sell chicken on a stick. Yummy, whether chicken or wild birds!

A View of the River Nile at Jinja as we passed over it on our way to Kampala. Beautiful, as always.

The chicken on a stick being hawked... It tastes good, trust me

We made it to Kampala a little past 1pm in readiness for the match at 5pm. We drove straight to the Namboole International Stadium in Kampala, where we parked and tweeps readied themselves for the match. One @raidarmax decided to hawk popcorn so he could raise some money perhaps to buy some Nile Special… those guys had pitched tent at the stadium!

Raidarmax with a bag of popcorn.. okay more like a sack of popcorn!

It was 3 hours to the game yet the stadium was filling up fast! We decided to freshen up (we all can’t do public freshening ups at the border!) at some hotels/cheap lodgings/guesthouses etc that surrounded the stadium. We then donned our Kenyan shirts (trademark red), carried our flags, vuvuzelas, whistles and other cheering paraphernalia and off to the stadium we went!

The packed stadium!

The place was packed to capacity! We could hardly get sitting space! The Ugandan fans were cheering and overpowering us (they had the advantage of numbers and the public address system) but we put up a show! They sang We go, we go.. and we replied you go, you go! I’ll try to upload the clip.

The Kenyan fans at the stadium!

I will not bore you with the match’s technical details, the pictures should suffice! Uganda was desperate to score especially when they realized Angola was almost winning its match against Guinea, which meant that Angola would qualify. The first half was exciting but no goals were scored, and in the second half, with the help of the referee, they terrorized our defenders and goalkeeper.

Worried Kenyan fans as the second half got underway. We were afraid the inevitable might happen.. but it didn't!

There were so many ‘almost’ goals it’s a wonder no Kenyan fan got a heart attack! Uganda was relentless in its attack towards the dying minutes of the game and we have to give it up for the man of the match, Arnold Origi, the goalkeeper. His performance was nothing short of impressive. In the end it was a 0-0 draw which wasn’t that bad for us but was heart-breaking for Uganda. If only they had let us have Migingo, we might have let them score so they could qualify for the ACN in the spirit of the EA community! But they thought they were too good for our team!

Dining With The Stars

The Kenyan ambassador to Uganda had organized an after party on Saturday night for the players which was graced by the Vice President among other politicians. I was among the few lucky fans in attendance. I remember William Ruto coming to the table I sat at and greeting each of us, before going to sit down at the ‘high table’. I must admit I was star struck for a second there!

Arnold Origi (the goalie, rem) and Mariga with his small bro who plays for Celtic Wanderers sat at the table next to us; food and drinks was freely flowing, speeches were given; Harambee Stars’ performance acknowledged (I think the VP said he’d give the team half a million shillings and a mystery present for the goalie); and all in all we had fun! We then left in the VP’s entourage and I got a seat next to Eugene Wamalwa (at this point I feel like a groupie posting pics of me with *ahem, politicians and football stars but can’t help it for now!).

Keeper Arnold Origi was having Fanta at dinner time... I know the pic isn't so good, but I think it is more authentic this way using a pic from my camera rather than a Googled clear one.

Mariga, @rosyrotten, Player X (forgot name), @savvykenya, and Mariga's small bro.

Eugene Wamalwa and yours truly hitch a ride in the VP's entourage

On Sunday morning we got into the bus and traveled to Nairobi. It was a long ride this time since the excitement had died, but there were some rowdy fans in the bus that kept us entertained the whole way! The discussions though, cannot be posted on this very nice and decent blog as they were X-rated, fodder for Maina’s breakfast show on Classic 105!

The other side of River Nile on our way back to Nairobi

All in all, I had quite the time of my life! The VP should do this more often 🙂 especially if/when he becomes president.


Most pictures taken by Calypso, my Galaxy S II. Others by a Nokia N8 courtesy of @kachwanya. I had to compress them so I could easily upload them and this reduced their quality but I hope you enjoy.

Kenya Vs Angola: Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier

On Saturday March the 26th, Kenya’s Harambee Stars was playing against Angola’s Black Antelopes (Palancas Negras in Portuguese) at Nyayo Stadium. For the first time since 2008, I did not attend Harambee Stars’ international match played at home. The last match I watched at the stadium was in November last year against Uganda where we drew 0-0.

For the first time in a long time, Kenya won! The final score was 2-1 and the winning goal was slotted in by McDonald Mariga. He then went on to remove his shirt and was given a second yellow card which meant he had to leave the pitch. He will also not play against Angola on June 4th.

McDonald Mariga

Mariga celebrates his goal with Dennis Oliech and Bob Mugalia. Their hairstyles are er.. odd but acceptable!!

Picture courtesy of Mohammed Amin, website

What does the win mean? Technically, not much. There are four teams in our group: Kenya, Uganda, Guinea and Angola. We have to play each team home and away. So far we lost to Guinea away, drew with Uganda at home and won against Angola at home. The remaining matches are Guinea, home; Uganda, away and Angola, away.

To qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon next year, we have to be at the top of our group. Only one team from each group will qualify, my brother tells me.
The stars now have a new kit, which I like! Below is the old kit.

The old kit! For the new one, refer to the image above!!! Image from some website in the UK.

I wish I had attended the match, from what I’m reading in the newspapers, it was a thrilling match.

From Rwanda to Kenya: The Journey Back Home

I certainly had a grand exit from Rwanda (meeting the president and all), one I fear I may not be able to match elsewhere. I was on a six-week internship in Rwanda which extended to eight weeks, but I do hope to go back and continue what I was doing. Working on the logistics right now. I might also get an offer to be a teaching assistant at my alma mater (JKUAT) since you know, I got a first class honours degree. Currently, I’m in Nairobi on a short holiday (another word for jobless).

The Horrible Bus to Kampala

I was leaving Musanze town, where I’d been staying, for Kampala through the border at Cyanika. I asked around for a bus that leaves for Kampala and was directed to Horizon. I went early to book the bus. I suppose I should have seen the warning signs when they told me you can’t book a day early, you have to book on the day you were leaving. The office was outside on the verandah of a building facing the Musanze Market.

So I booked at noon for my 4.30pm bus. Check-in time: 4pm. I was there at about 5 minutes past four with all my luggage, with Julie and Val and the other Val there to see me off. The bus was nowhere in sight. We waited till 4.30 and still the bus was not there. I thought when they said the bus leaves at 4.30 it means it leaves at 4.30, passengers arrive earlier at 4 so they can settle.

Finally, at almost five, the bus came speeding round a corner. It came to a stop right in front of us and I rushed in so I could secure a good seat. See, when booking you don’t choose a seat number, it’s a scram for any good seats like it was in the old times in Kenya.

When I got onto the bus, I was dismayed! There were five seats per row: 2-isle-3 seat arrangement. The seats were old and looked uncomfortable. The floor of the bus was dirty and rusty, with holes in some places. The seats had no armrests, the seatbelts were dysfunctional and dirty or missing altogether. Any hope that the seats could recline so I could snatch some sleep on the 10 hour journey were dashed. I feared I’d fall off my seat if I dozed… there was not much space and as I mentioned, no armrests/seatbelts to keep you in your seat!

The bus was not full so I could have the 2-seater to myself. I had a lot of luggage, which I had to keep in the bus because you cannot be assured of the security of your luggage. Soon, I was hugging my friends in Rwanda bye and the bus took off.

It stopped a few kilometers out of town to pick up more passengers. This we did all night! Picking and dropping off passengers in-the-middle-of-nowhere kind of towns.

I was gloomy, staring out at Muhabura (volcano that is part of the Virunga massif) as it loomed closer and closer. We were approaching the Cyanika border, just 25Km from Musanze. At the border, the money changers were enticing me and I wanted to change part of my money into Ugandan Shillings. It was very confusing though; new currency confuses me! Not forgetting I had not yet cleared with immigration on both sides and the custom officials searching luggage. I was in a panic! I told the money changer that once everything was settled, I’d look for him.

I had no trouble getting my Rwanda exit/Uganda entry stamps on my travel document. I got back to the bus to find all my luggage in a heap outside, just like the rest of the passengers. I opened my bags for a Ugandan customs official who confirmed I was not smuggling any contraband. Now I had the daunting task of getting my luggage back in the bus!

I started with my suitcase, trying to lag it up the steps of the bus. Two small boys who were hawking water to the passengers in the bus noticed my struggle and offered to help. They put their bottles aside and carried my suitcase in, plus my other heavy bag. I gave them all the Rwandese currency I had left, about $5. They thanked me profusely and wished me a safe journey. I asked them their names: Alex Moses and his friend (can’t remember his name). Their beautiful faces stuck with me. I smiled for the first time since leaving Rwanda. My only regret is that I did not have a camera with me at the time.

I eventually changed my money, trying to get accustomed to the Ugandan notes. I gave up the seat next to mine as the bus filled up on the way. It got dark as we went up and down the hills; Western Uganda is quite hilly. The road was being repaired but there were bad sections where I felt as if we were going to topple off the hill. Worse, the driver was driving way over the speed limit, slowing down only to take sharp corners. I remembered there were no seatbelts and kept hoping we don’t crash. Outside, it was a clear beautiful night. The moon was casting a soft shadow on the hills, which looked like mountains in the night. The stars shone brilliantly. I remember thinking it was a beautiful night to die(!). Sometimes I lost sight of the moon as we drove on one side of a steep hill and at that time, the stars looked like motherless children: sad and forlorn.

I dozed off sometime later after midnight. I slept on and off until we arrived in Kampala at five in the morning. The conductor told us to get off the bus but no one was budging, we were all waiting for it to be light. I did not want to spend another minute in the horrible bus and took a cab to my friend’s place in a hostel near Makerere University.

In Kampala

Kampala was just the opposite of Musanze. Musanze is a quiet, beautiful town; clean and cool. In fact when I left, it was raining.

Kampala was hot and dusty! It felt like being in Kenyan coast only without the redeeming quality of sunny beaches and an endless ocean view. I dreaded going out in the scorching sun and dusty streets, where cars competed with motorbikes for space on the roads. The passenger-carrying motorbikes- boda bodas- sometimes drove the wrong way on one-way roads. You don’t know ‘dangerous’ until you’ve taken a boda boda in downtown Kampala, without a helmet!

If wearing helmets for both the passenger and the rider is a law in Rwanda (which it is), then there must be a law forbidding helmets in Kampala. Maybe it’s the heat, I don’t blame them. The 24hr protection advertised by Nivea deodorant lasted only 1hr, tops!

I stayed in Kampala for about 3 days, doing what young people do to pass time.

The Luxury Bus to Nairobi

Easy Coach is easily the most luxurious bus I’ve ever taken. It’s not just comfortable, it’s luxurious. Akamba is comfortable. So are the coast-plying buses from Nairobi. Easy Coach to-and-from Kampala is luxurious.

The bus was there when we arrived at 5.25p.m. and departure time was 6pm. I had booked the previous day and chosen a seat in the singles column. The bus has just three seats per row: 1-isle-2 seat arrangement. The floor of the bus was shiny and clean, the area under the seats carpeted. There was a bag-thingy at the back of the seat in front of me so I didn’t have to hold my handbag and food-to-eat-on-the-bus on my lap. There was plenty of space and the seatbelts worked. The seat could recline all the way back until you are almost horizontal. There were footrests that you could lower/raise. I sighed with pleasure.

Luggage was checked and labeled. There would be no stopovers to pick random passengers on the way so luggage was safe till we arrived in Nairobi. I hugged my friends goodbye and got onto the bus. I waved at them till we turned a corner and joined Kampala traffic. The sun was setting and I was reading Charles Onyango-Obbo’s book: Uganda’s Poorly Kept Secrets.

Before we took off (at 6pm on the dot), the guy who had been labeling our luggage handed us cold bottled water. Compliments of Easy Coach.

As I was getting comfortable; adjusting my seatbelt, reclining and pulling up my seat, raising and lowering the footrests; I noticed some buttons overheard. One was drawn on it the G-clef (I remember my brief music lessons in primary school) and I pressed it. Nothing happened. Two were for the individual overhead lights, these worked. One bright, one dim. On another button was a steaming cup of tea. I didn’t press it: I’m not an idiot. It may have been first class, but it was still a bus!

I had an interesting conversation with the guy in the seat ahead of me. On my two-month stay in Rwanda, I had to use correct grammar so I could be understood. Now some guys I meet are telling me I don’t sound Kenyan. Sample some parts of our conversation with the guy:

“Me I am telling you…”

“I had used that ka-machine of mine sijui for like for 6 six years.”

“Otherwise me I think night runners are just shy nudists.”

I’m definitely back in Kenya.

Leaving For Kampala

As I write this, am packing and unpacking and repacking. I’ve sat on the suitcase and finally managed to have it closed. Now I have to figure how the rest of my stuff is going to fit into other two small bags. The situation looks hopeless. To get away from this depressing mood, I’m thinking of motorcycles. My current wallpaper (desktop background) is a picture of the kind of bikes used at the 30th edition of the Dakar Rally. [Google it.]


The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?

The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?

On my list of things I want to achieve this year: Learn how to ride a motorbike. Check. Learn French, next target. When I get back to Nairobi, I’m applying for a motorbike license. Some are still asking me, why a bike?

I’ve been trying to explain how I’m trying to be unique. Graduation may not be for another three months, but when it finally arrives, most of my fellow graduands will be arriving for the rehearsal ceremony in borrowed/begged/rented/stolen cars to impress. I, on the other hand, will be on a motorcycle, which is way cooler and more impressive not to mention different.

Nonetheless, my motorcycle lessons were interesting. To start with, there was no theory and even if there was, I don’t think I would have understood much of my teacher’s Congolese Kiswahili. So here are the parts of the motorcycle as I understand them:

Umbriage: (I hope I have spelled it correctly, that is how it is pronounced): I suppose this is the clutch. Located on the left handlebar, you have to hold it when shifting gears and release it so you can shoot forward. Which is what I’ve been doing when I’m starting up the bike. You’re supposed to release the clutch slowly so you can leave smoothly but I usually let go so fast, the bike almost leaves me behind. Takes practice though and am almost getting the hang of it.

The Tia Moto Thing: Usually on the right handlebar, it’s the part that gives you power so you can accelerate. The vroom vroom part just before you leave. Accelerators on bikes have a different name though, am sure. Too lazy to google. It’s easily my favorite part of the bike. Vroom vroom!

Honi: the horn. At first I was honking all the time, because most people you find on the road don’t move out of the way. No matter how much you honk. So I’ve learned to just honk a little warning so they don’t make any sudden movements and then I’m the one who moves out of their way!

The brake: I find it easier to stop by stepping on the break instead of down-shifting until you stop, though stepping on the break shuts down the bike so you have to kick-start it into life again.
The lights of the bike I was using to learn were not working so I was just shown theoretically using my imagination. I have to remember to use the left side of the road in Kenya because in Rwanda they drive on the right.

I don’t know many other parts of the motorbike but I suppose that’s what mechanics are for, no? But… that’s what the internet is there for. Or is there a good book on motorbikes that anyone can recommend?

The day I was able to ride on my own, turning corners, starting and stopping, was my best day of learning. There was no teacher behind me, just me and the bike. Sometimes they’d shout instructions when am passing by: shift gears, sit properly (they want me to sit relaxed but I’m usually too tense, leaning forward wanting to be one with the bike.)

I overpaid for the lessons, I was supposed to have 17 hours in total, one hour daily. These guys came late and left early and missed some days, and we hopelessly tried to make up for the lost lessons. Then they told me that when I’m leaving, I should leave them a present. They gave me an example of someone they had taught who bought one of them a brand new mobile phone. Ha!

In the end though, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Tonight, I’m taking the bus to Kampala. Time to say hi to some friends over there before coming back to Nairobi.