Uproar Over Kenya at 50 Celebrations at Husby Träff in Stockholm
Through Ambassador Dr. Joseph Sang, the Kenyan Embassy in Stockholm has scheduled the anniversary of Kenya’s 50th Independence day on Friday, 13th December at Husby Träff located in Kista and all Kenyans and friends of Kenya have been cordially invited. Since the invitation went public last week, the most interesting news is that many Kenyans in Stockholm believe that something is seriously amiss with the planned celebration.
So far, the biggest problem Kenyans here are having with the planned historic event is the venue. For non-Stockholmers, Husby Träff is located at a locality called Kista which, in turn, is located in the suburbs of Stockholm. The venue is an ordinary meeting hall at the centre of Husby shopping centre. Husby is an estate mainly dominated by immigrants and in Stockholm, Husby is regarded as one of the ghettoes where the underprivileged, unemployed youths, refugees and other odiangabuks in Stockholm reside.
During the summer of this year, Husby made world headlines when it became the centre of serious violent riots by marauding youths who were protesting against police racism and discrimination of Husby residents following the shooting to death of an elderly immigrant by Swedish police under circumstances that suggested that police did not value life in Husby. The riots continued for days as cars were burnt and property destroyed in a moment of anger by marginalized immigrant youths. Because of the well-known ghetto profile of Husby, many Kenyans believe that Husby Träff is the last spot where celebration of a historic event of the 50th anniversary type could be scheduled. Unlike at a Hotel, there is no security at Husby Träff unless the Embassy is planning to hire security.
To begin with, Husby Träff has no catering facilities because the outline of the venue is that of a simple meeting hall. The implication is that there might be no food unless the Embassy is planning to prepare the food at the Ambassador’s residence in Nacka then transport it all the way to the venue. Another option will be for the Embassy to hire a catering firm to prepare the food then transport it to the venue.
Assuming that the food will emanate from the ambassador’s residence (and this is just an assumption), the immediate issue which arises is that if food is to be served to the public attending the event after responding to a public advertisement, a certified individual or authority will have to be responsible for food hygiene as per the Swedish law especially if the food has to be transported to the venue. The point is that in case of food poisoning leading to mass diarrhoea and other related complications, someone will have to be pinned down to take responsibility.
In Sweden, feeding the public at a public function is very sensitive and to do so, a permit is usually required from Socialstyrelsen (a State body) which has to satify that there is someone qualified taking care of food hygiene and that the food is being served under acceptable conditions. Usually, such a person must have worked as a Chef for at least five years. If the Embassy was just an organization with closed membership, matters could have been a bit relaxed because then, the organization’s leadership takes responsibility. If the function was to be held at a Hotel with catering services, the Embassy does not have to bother about the issues mentioned. Did someone alert Ambassador Dr. Sang about the consequences of serving food at Husby Träff or will the celebration be devoid of food?
The second issue touches on alcoholic beverages. If the event were to be organized at a Hotel with catering services, matters could be easier. The problem is that no alcohol can be served at Husby Träff without what is called Alkoholtillstånd (Permit to serve liquor). Once again, the permit is usually obtained through an application at Socialstyrelsen and it is usually issued on condition that alcoholic drinks would be served with food. If the event were to be held at a hotel in town, the Permit question would not arise because all Hotels usually have a permit to serve alcohol as part of business.
If the Embassy does not have this permit, it means that there will be no alcohol at the celebrations and this will be a big disappointment to many Kenyans whom, traditionally, have literally gone on a drinking spree during all known Independence day celebrations until Purity entered the scene and put a break on the practice. Much of the hatred for Purity partly sprung from the fact that she was seen as being so corrupt that she had unilaterally banned the serving of alcohol at Jamhuri allegedly to divert cash. Does Ambassador Sang know this?
“Kenya vs Uganda” at 50 years
If the food and alcohol issues were to be side-lined, the most critical issue is why Ambassador Sang should stage Kenya’s 50th anniversary at a venue largely regarded as inferior. Many Kenyans have given the example of Uganda, our neighbours, who recently celebrated their 50th independence day at Caffe Opra, one of the most prestigious venues known in Stockholm. Although the Ugandans had their own organizational problems, the event was well pampered with Ugandan artists, business Executives, MPs and other big-wigs having been roped in to grace the occasion. Simply put, Ambassador Sang has invited guests to the historic event at a venue which, by Nairobi standards, can be equated to Kariobangi or, at best, Mathare Valley. This is what many Kenyans cannot understand while others view it as a major scandal.
As if that is not enough, the event is scheduled to run from 17.00 Hrs to 21.00 hrs, a mere four hours when many Kenyans had expected an all overnight boogie with top Kenya-Stockholm DJs spinning with latest numbers from the Republic. Even within the four hours, no Kenyan artists have been lined up so one wonders whether Kenyans who will make it will simply make-do with brief exchanges before leaving the scene. Surely, how can such a historic event be celebrated without action because so far, nothing has been advertised.
If Purity could afford to host Kenya public celebrations at big Hotels right in the middle of town; and if the former boss at the Embassy could even afford to transfer celebrations to Norway and Denmark, what has suddenly changed to an extent that Kenya’s most prestigious celebration is being held at Stockholm’s Kariobangi? What is even more disturbing is the fact that the government had allocated Ksh500 million for the celebrations so in the spirit of transparency and accountability, can Dr. Sang tell Kenyans the amount of money that was allocated to the Kenyan Embassy for the event because the cost of hiring Husby Träff for four hours is less than SEK 5,000? It could be true that the Embassy is operating on a tight budget but how much was allocated?
Urgent answers needed
According to Hassan Wario, Cabinet secretary for Sports and Culture who also chairs the National Steering Committee Kenya at 50, “the main celebration will take place on December 12 at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani with about 60,000 people which the stadium can accommodate expected to attend”. From the foregoing information, why is Ambassador Sang staging the event on December 13th, a day after the main celebration? The government announced that the official celebrations will start on December 11th and will run up to December 13th. Why should the event be celebrated when the date has already expired? December 13th is a week day, just like December 12th. Why not December 12th?
According to rumours that have saturated Kenya Stockholm, the Embassy is planning to fete the Stockholm diplomatic community at a five star hotel before enjoying Wakenya with biscuits, sodas and sausages at Husby Träff the following day. Is this true?
Since he arrived in Stockholm, Ambassador Dr. Sang has had a lot of good-will from Kenyans. He needs to come clean on the issues currently being raised by Kenyans on the coming celebrations if he is to maintain the confidence he has been enjoying. It is pathetic to imagine that the Embassy could not even fix a professional flyer to advertise Kenya at 50 celebration. Is the Embassy that broke, given that a presentable flyer costs less than SEK 1k? In any case, what happened to the Kenya Committee which was supposed to organize the event? Is this what they came up with? Answers are needed by Wakenya in Stockholm urgently.