The story you are about to read will no doubt leave you wondering whether the world is insane. But this will depend on who you are; because for too many it is an everyday story of British imperialist exclusion which is their common lot. It is what happens to perhaps many millions of ordinary persons every calendar month starting when they try to travel to Britain for any number of reasons, including tourism.
Of course, like so many, I had heard what can happen, but as is the way of the world it had not happened to me. Oh yes, these things can happen, but to others, not us! All catch the common cold, sometimes a touch of something more serious like cancer; and the hearse wends its sinister way to many a tomb â€“ we start dying when we are born after all. It is in our nature, like it or not! But to be denied a visa without good reason? At our stage of life, with the offices we occupy? Come on!
Well, Reader, it happened to me this Wednesday; not to me directly, but to my son, Frank Kisakye Nagenda, who will turn 13 on the ninth day of the ninth month of this ninth year. (09 09 09; say that in German, and it means No three times. â€œThe cock shall not crow three times before you deny me, said the Lord to Judas Iscariot!â€ And it was the same with poor old Frank.) Even writing these words fills me with spumes of anger, and even hatred. Why tell a lie when you can tell the truth?
Let me go back some 56 years to when I was 15. My dear late Father is talking to me about his deep love of the Bangereza (English), against whom he wonâ€™t hear a bad word. All the old clichÃ©s are there: an Englishmanâ€™s word is his bond, the fairness of the English is legendary, as is the beauty of their land. See England at least once before you die. He certainly did this, starting in â€™48, right up to â€™73 when he departed this world (as indeed did my Mother). She took a slightly more jaundiced line from Dadâ€™s, although in the years they were in England it didnâ€™t stop her from voting, and voting Conservative.
I said to her: â€œMama, if they get in they will throw you out!â€ And she: â€œLet them. It is their country!â€ It isnâ€™t the Conservatives that are in as I write this, but Labour. But on the other hand, no need to throw you out when they donâ€™t let you in, in the first place! It is what happened to Frank, and billions of others like him down the loom of years. For FKN, for my boy, is now part of those inglorious statistics. It is a shameful thing! What is more, he has done absolutely nothing to deserve it, nor I on his behalf.
Wednesday, as they say in books, dawned like any other day; except for a slight heaviness in the head (so what else is new?) I had no presentiment of what was coming our way! Then the dam burst. I was in Dublinâ€™s fair city, the sun shone, a good lunch was promised. â€œFrank has been refused a visa!â€ The words, like a thunderbolt out of the blue sky didnâ€™t make sense. I wondered whether I had had a stroke! This was swiftly followed by an urgent need to rush to the bathroom and have a vomit. We had promised Frank a ten-day trip to London, for his Summer Holiday, and for entering Senior school at ISU (International School Uganda).
For the terminally laid back dude, his reaction was its own statement: â€œOh man, am I looking forward to being in London again!â€ We had been there the summer before; the chance of his not being granted a visa seemed less than the possibility of a snowflake in hell. But hell it became, for we were reckoning without the British Empire and its blasted Visa policy, if you can call it a policy. I had fondly looked forward to passing on a measure of Fatherâ€™s glowing tributes to my son Frank, a kind of bonding, and about time! Not, alas, this time round.
Over the telephone I tried to explain our fate to a very sombre sounding boy; to no avail. Even usually profitable bribery failed; Frank astounding me by saying all he wanted was to go to London, not writing lists of what he needed! How did we arrive here? The year before he had received a visa with no problem, and returned home without incident. I am a leading adviser to the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni and very well known on the diplomatic scene. I am the proud possessor of a Heroes Medal. I have never been in any trouble over my passport. In fact I have permanent residence status of the UK. I have a small flat in Shepherds Bush, west London. I have been very happy in England, where I spent 20 years in political exile.
This time round to get a visa you had to go to the Hub in Nairobi. Why? Should Britons trying to go to Uganda go through a Hub in, say, Austria? Why did the machinery in Nairobi not ask for necessary information from the High Commission in Kampala? There is complete contempt shown to foreigners trying to get into Britain from its old colonies. Evil parts of the Empire never died after all!
The wonder of British visas