There were six men and two hats. In an expansive room at a hotel by the lakeside, the breeze wafted misty coolness that appeared to smother the heat of the day. But one of the men did not appear happy. He removed his grey hat and wiped his bald pate, swore under his breath before giving his piece of mind out loud. He said the room was too hot and wondered why such a hotel had no AC.
One of the men looked across the table and joked that not long ago, himself and the cursing complainant had spent years in the jungles without even toilet paper, only dreaming of toppling a government, not AC rooms and fine dinnerware. The bald man looked at this fellow who once served him as a spymaster and thought to himself, he looks long, not just tall.
Turning to the rest, he said it was time they laid down their integration plans. “The EAC is a big dream and we are inching ever closer. We must commit here on how to fast track it. Each one of us will present areas in which their country will focus,” he said.
The man who had spoken with authority now read from a prepared statement. His country, he said, was open to the region. He said there was no reason to delay anything any further but warned that those who cross into the country to participate in illegality like espionage and other deeds that threatened the sovereignty of the country would not be tolerated.
“There have been recent cases here. Foreign nationals taking advantage of our generosity, our open borders and everything... We have handled them. They even tried to use the tabloids to spread malicious stuff, we dealt with those too. I showed them that you can only tickle a dead leopard. Here, we are open, we are okay, as long as you don’t come to play with our sovereignty, to abuse my wife...
The other man with a hat in the room belched what smelt of strong vodka. The room was humid but he had his black hat on, his full beards giving him the impression of a shadow.
Presently, the fellow with dark lips and bloodshot eyes cleared his throat and chuckled. He announced his government had no problem with integration, but that there were some issues that needed further discussion and citizenry engagement. He cited a big economy and the tripartite agreement student IDs to cross borders freely.
“However, some things got to give. The other day these firms faced the dilemma of retrenching staff. Yeah, they asked foreign nationals to leave. It would be bad to fire your own and keep regional citizens, the locals wouldn’t go easy on that. Otherwise…
“Goal!!” a voice reverberated in the room. All eyes turned on a chubby cheeked fellow who sat with his back to the rest. He was surfing on his pad and had apparently been watching football highlights.
“What is wrong with him?” asked the tall fellow with gigantic specs. There were well formed teeth around the room as mirth filled the air.
“Perhaps we should have been holding this discussion around a beehive or potato farm, then he would be fully interested,” said the short guy with a weird temple.
“Or maybe in a soccer pitch,” added the leader whose speech had been interrupted.
Now the bald man waved them down and asked that the withdrawn member be ignored and left alone.
The short fellow with weird forehead took over and said in Swahili that he had no time for political correctness.
“This integration, is it for humans or cows? Is it for chicken?” he asked, drawing quizzical stares from the rest. After taking in the deathly silence, the short fellow with a weird forehead continued: “My government is working on free movement of people but not for animals coming to graze or chicken whatever.” He sat down, leaving the room silent.
The bald man gestured to the dark bearded fellow with a black hat, but the latter simply smiled and jerked his chin toward the tall man with gigantic specs.
“Ours bodies are all open, no work permit needed for citizens from EAC,” the bespectacled lanky man was saying. “But from time to time, Immigration officials confiscate passports of regional citizens who don’t have work permits. The defaulters are fined up to $800. We need the money to keep the city clean and feed refugees. Yes, we need more refugees.” He paused and looked at the chubby fellow who had shouted goal earlier.
“When do you next meet for this regional luncheon while citizens are hungry?” It was the chubby fellow. “When you are next launching bees so you don’t have to join and sulk upon us,” replied the lanky guy.