The revelation by this newspaper yesterday that the government is proposing wide-ranging reforms in the transport sector countrywide could not have come at a later time. For a very long time, transport in Kampala and other parts of the country has been thrown to the hands of individuals who determine what fare to charge or what route to ply. In Kampala, for example, the fights over levying of taxes and management of the sector have been so rampant.
In 2011, for instance, a group of men suspected to be Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Utoda) agents stormed the stages supposedly to arrest drivers subscribing to a rival taxi body, Drivers and Conductors Central Association (DACCA) who had reportedly declined to pay Utoda daily fees. The fights between the two groups always left passengers stranded as the drivers stepped the brake on operations.
The temporary relief came in January 2015 when the government asked Utoda and other rival organisations to forget collecting taxes and managing the sector.
The then minister for Security, Mr Muruli Mukasa, said the government had taken over the taxi industry to ensure security and proper management and give Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) full mandate of running the passenger transport business in the city.
However, the transport system remains in a mess. The KCCA, for example, promised to set up designated stages around the city and set up parks for vehicles ferrying passengers upcountry outside the city, but none of those is yet to see the light of day. The issue of double taxation still haunts operators. Taxis are still taxed at the park and on the street.
Third, until today, there is no formal leadership of either the taxi operators or boda boda riders, which has often resulted in clashes.
The lack of a formal leadership organ has also created a fertile ground for quack drivers and riders. Authorities have paid lip service to formal registration of drivers and boda boda riders for more than five years. And the failure to do so has exposed passengers to fraudsters and unqualified people to take charge of their lives while on the wheel.
Besides, authorities have failed to ensure motorists adhere to traffic rules. It is not uncommon to find taxis driving on road shoulders, creating extra lanes or boda boda cyclists disobeying traffic lights, etc.
Thisis why we laud the proposal, which, among other issues, strives to create permanent routes for taxis and also ease taxation and management. According to Ms Beti Kamya, the minister for Kampala, the proposal will streamline the entire transport system in the country. Let this give us tangible results. It should have come yesterday!