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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid