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Jamafest serves haunting traffic jam and little else

The third edition of the East African Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni festival (Jamafest) is currently on in Kampala, in case you had not noticed.

The first rotational East African regional arts event, the festival’s main objective is promoting regional socio-cultural integration through arts by providing a platform under a theme, “Culture and Creative Industries: An Engine For Unity And Employment Creation.” It is running from September 7 to 15.

However, the event did not live up to its billing when it opened on Thursday; in fact, it did not even open, because would-be patrons were unable to access the festival programs, venues or dates of activities since they were yet to be availed.

Dancers from Burundi

Much of the action started two days later on Saturday, where a KCCA-like carnival was organized and was to blame for the traffic mayhem that reigned in Kampala that day.

However, since it was poorly advertised, even the street carnival was poorly attended and city dwellers kept quarrelling over closed roads, wondering why ‘Jennifer Musisi was holding a pre-carnival carnival on a Saturday of all days!’

According to Williams Mpaata, an actor, he got to learn about the festival coming to Uganda in 2015, “but as we approached 2017, I thought it had been cancelled since there was zero buzz or promotion”.

Last held in Nairobi in 2015, Jamafest intends to help the cultural and artistic sector achieve what business and agricultural sectors have by creating an environment for artistes to have easier mobility across borders.

A group from Yumbe performs on Saturday

The Sunday programme mostly happened at Kololo ceremonial grounds with Kenyan band Sarabi, a troupe from Burundi and Maddox Ssematimba, among others, performing.

But even when those bands did well at entertaining the few people at Kololo, it was clear something was wrong.

For instance, at Kololo, even a passerby could hardly notice that a free public event was on. And for a regional event, government officials stayed away and the VIP tent was empty for the entire day.

Things actually got worse at the cocktail party on Sunday night at Hotel Africana; not only was the cocktail a quiet affair saved by a group from Karamoja that decided to entertain themselves, they forgot to hire a basic public address system and a bell had to be rung for people to give Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja attention.

Shame that most Ugandans missed that Burundi team, which left the audience mesmerized just like Maddox or the Zanzibar Taraab band. The festival ends tomorrow with yet another dinner that will include awards for best exhibitors.

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