Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is geared up for the visit of the country’s most famous son, U.S. President Barack Obama.
And the city is sparing no expense.
A “beautification” project has been in process for months. The city’s streets were cleared up. Roads were repaired, flowers planted, signs painted and security cameras installed throughout the bustling capital at the expense of the city.
Leah Oyake-Ombis, chief environment officer for the Nairobi City Council, said the effort is about more than just welcoming one visitor and will have a lasting impact.
“I think for Nairobi and especially as concerns the environmental services or rather activities you are currently seeing us doing at the moment, we are not specifically or primarily doing them for the coming of the American president,” she said.
Oyake-Ombis said many of these improvement plans were already in place but were fast-tracked ahead of the president’s arrival.
Still, the people of Nairobi do hope the president will make some pronouncements that will benefit the country and the city.
“Turning such kind of pronouncements into realities of programs are going to start from Nairobi, so Nairobi is like the springboard of whatever good will come with the visit,” Oyake-Ombis said.
The city of more than four-million people faces enormous civic challenges from congested roads to extreme poverty. It is more than what a little paint can fix.
It is busy, chaotic a little messy and desperately in need of a facelift. While the U.S. President is unlikely to see this part of the city, residents here say any improvement is a good thing.
“They want to make it clean for the people who are coming to visit the country to see it more clean,” said James Onya’ncha, a Nairobi resident. “But my wish is to let them continue the way they are doing at the moment, we need it to be clean and more beautiful the way it used to be before.”
A student, who gave her name as Jackie, said: “For now, they’re doing fine because they’re making the roads and everything, so I think it’s an amazing job that they’re doing.”
Not everyone is as enthusiastic. Some have said the money spent on the visit could be put to better use.
“Like now the county commissioner of Nairobi, he’s trying to prepare all this -- those are just face show,” said Simon Ng’anga, a retired Army officer. “He’s wasting a lot of money. People need that money to improve the Mathare area, or the Wanainchi (working class people) who are below. So they should be given that money to improve their standard.”