News / Africa

New Ugandan Agency Avoids Real Road Safety Challenges

An intersection is seen in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 12, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
An intersection is seen in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 12, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
In an attempt to combat the country's terrifying rate of traffic fatalities, the Ugandan government is setting up a new agency to promote better roads and safer driving.  But the real problem may be impossible for the agency to tackle.

A handful of taxis are clustered at a busy Kampala intersection, their drivers sheltering from the sun on a makeshift bench in the shade.  When customers were scarce, the life of a taxi driver could be slow.  But once he got behind the wheel it was anything but.

Taxi driver Bashir Sabiiti said driving in Uganda can be hair-raising, and he knew a number of people who have been hurt or killed.  The roads are in such poor condition that locals once fished from potholes in protest. 

Plus, Bashir said, few drivers really knew what they were doing.

“Most cars now, they are automatic cars.  So after knowing that this is drive, this is parking, this is advance, he or she starts driving.  So most of them, they don’t know how to drive,” he said.

The law said a driver must attend driving school and pass a test to get a license.  But, Sabiiti said, the law was easy to circumvent.

“Whoever has money, you can either get your driving permit minus going to be tested.  You just go to the bank, you pay, [and] they just get for you that driving permit,” he said.

And if those people are stopped by police?  Four to eight dollars, said Sabiiti, would get them off the hook.

“When the police stops you, you pull out something for the officer - either 10,000 or 20,000 - and that officer will let you go.  It’s just because most of these guys, the police guys, they are not paid well,” he said.

In Uganda, catastrophic accidents are common, and, according to Nathan Tumushabe of the National Road Safety Council, they seem to be on the rise.

“The country loses more than 3,000 people a year.  Those are dead, and for every one dead there are so many injured.  When you look at our statistics, most of the affected people are what we call breadwinners, people with families who bring food to the table.  And the trend seems to be increasing,” said Tumushabe.

Uganda is in the final stages of setting up a new National Road Safety Agency to educate the public, mobilize resources and conduct road safety activities.  The agency would be modeled on a similar one in Ghana, said Tumushabe, where road safety has improved.

“They had drastically reduced accidents.  We also think if we implemented ours rightly, we too can reduce the occurrence maybe by 50 percent in the same time span,” he said.

Tumushabe thought the biggest problem was a lack of awareness of why it was important to obey traffic rules, and admitted that tackling corruption would be outside the new agency’s mandate.

But Cissy Kagaba, director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, said that the crux of the issue was the graft that ran throughout the sector, from corrupt police, who ignored the dangerous state many vehicles were in, to the road improvement funds that regularly disappeared.

“If you look at the budget that is allocated to the roads it’s one of the highest.  But if you look at the quality of the roads, the roads are very, very poor.  And some of them, within one, or even two or three or six months, they are already wearing down," said Kagaba.

The policies needed to cut down on road fatalities are already in place, she added.

“It’s just a matter of ensuring that the policies work, the systems are strengthened and followed through.  It’s about the commitment from the powers that be to ensure that corruption is gotten rid of,” said Kagaba.

Unless this happened, said Kagaba, another road safety agency would not make any difference.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid