When you have a Cardinal, dozens of Bishops, hundreds of priests and nuns in one place, you expect all things secular to go through the window. When you have politicians, as we have seen in the so-called prayer rallies, politics usually takes over. But Friday, at the Moi International Sports Centre, in Kasarani, we had His Holiness Pope Francis – and neither politics nor prayers took over, but song, dance and deep self-reflection.
The thousands of the young people who had heeded the call of the Catholic bishops in the country turned up at the stadium to have their date with Pope Francis on his maiden tour in the country. They sat on the terraces singing, cheering, and dancing.
As they awaited the Pope, a party mood engulfed the stadium.
"...the Bishops, in their black cassocks with pink band cinctures on their waists had no option but to dance away. And that they did, not simply swaying from side to side, but actually doing that shoulder-shaking dance, hands raised and stomping their feet."
Then when President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived at the venue, the cheering was louder. The ingenious ones in the crowd began the Mexican wave. They rose in turns, cheering and shouting with happy faces beaming on the giant screens positioned strategically all over the stadium.
These cheers rose with each crest and fell with each trough – even President Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretaries and governors joined in the cheering. The cheers would have looked disruptive were it not for the ingenuity of the Masters of Ceremony who decided to take over and command the wave. The spontaneity was lost. The allure was lost. Calm was restored.
Then, came a rare request. The MCs asked a Bishop to volunteer for a dance. They needed one, and the first hand that went up was that of Bishop Maurice Makumba of Nakuru Diocese. As he was picked from the dais, the other bishops joined him.
When they had all lined up, the huge speakers blared ‘Mukangala’ that hit-song by the late legend Jacob Luseno about a naughty houseboy who pretends to be the boss of the House, and even calls Roselida, her employer, his wife. Picture that!
With that song on the speakers, the Bishops, in their black cassocks with pink band cinctures on their waists had no option but to dance away. And that they did, not simply swaying from side to side, but actually doing that shoulder-shaking dance, hands raised and stomping their feet.
The President was watching from his dais. Tempted, but resisting.
When the DJ switched the song to Kayamba Africa’s Mugithi, and the ‘Mugithi train’ was formed, the President, his wife, Cabinet secretaries, and governors joined the dance floor in front of the dais reserved for Pope Francis.
The President went to the head of the queue, his wife followed, and then the governors and the CSs. They danced, stomping their feet rhythmically, and flailing their hands awkwardly, sometimes, just clapping away as they stomped their feet. It was a thrill to watch. Behind the State officers were youth from Don Bosco parish in tight blue jeans and white t-shirts, and behind these youth were the bishops, in black cassocks, and pink/purple cincture bands on their waists. They went forward, then backward, then side-ways, until the music stopped, then, they ran back to their seats.
On the terraces, the young people had come alive. They were cheering. Loudly. On the patch of grass that serves as the football pitch, where the choir, the orchestra and the Police Band had been placed, they had all formed their little distinct Mugithi trains and had fun dancing to the music.
The Pope still had not arrived, but he was almost arriving at the stadium.
Before the dancing, the crowd had been treated to plays from a youth group from Githurai and Mary Hill Girls. The choir had sang too.
The Pope arrived in the modest Honda car, hopped to the Pope Mobile and was driven into the stadium to a roaring welcome. He waved, smiled, and waved some more. He was seated when he got in, but as he got into the stadium, he found himself on his feet, the crowd wild with cheers, ululations and shouts. Miniature flags of the Holy See and of Kenya distributed by the organisers were waved in jubilation.
As the Pope Mobile approached the main dais, a group of cameramen attempted to go and get a great shot, but the hawk-eyed presidential security and the Pope’s security detail were keen and kept a decent perimeter around their prize.
He got to shake a few hands and was escorted to his seat. The little games ended.