Ugandan consuls at the London High Commission have been working overtime issuing dozens of visas to diplomats from the 53-nation body heading to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala this week.
Envoys were greeted with the smell of fresh paint in Kampala as preparations to the tune of £70 million reached fever pitch to ready the Ugandan capital for 5,000 delegates.
Roads in the Ugandan capital – badly damaged by the worst floods in 30 years – have been repaired, the Parliament building has been spruced up and the swish Serena Kampala Hotel, where the opening ceremony will be held today, has risen from the ashes of the old government-run Nile hotel.
An electricity hotline has been set up, with officers on 24-hour standby, in case of power failures – a not uncommon occurrence in Uganda – and the energy power grid has been boosted to ensure power during the conference.
Traffic in the city suburbs has been diverted to clear the roads for delegates and even the city’s red light district has been relocated, to spare the participants’ blushes.
But no CHOGM would be complete without some last-minute hitches: furniture bound for the presidential villas in the brand new Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort was delayed in Dubai, and buses from India were also held up.
However, hundreds of government vehicles have been commandeered for the duration of the CHOGM. Over 400 luxury government sedans as well as more than 540 private vehicles – all inspected for roadworthiness – have been secured by the Ministry of works and Transport to ensure that delegates have transport about town.
But critics point out that Uganda is spending 10 times more to host this weekend’s summit than on providing food for 1.7 million of its people devastated by floods.
Huge swathes of central and northern Uganda have been swamped by the heaviest rainfall in 30 years, leaving hundreds of thousands reliant on food aid.