You people, Kampala is becoming impossible!
Last Wednesday afternoon, a car sought to join Ggaba Road from the gate of International University of East Africa in Kansanga. It was slow-moving traffic and I was in a good mood.
I was driving toward Kabalagala. I stopped and the car entered the road and made to turn toward Bunga-Ggaba. The driver, busy chatting with a co-passenger, was, reasonably, focused on the traffic flowing from Kansanga toward Ggaba. She, however, did not factor in something else.
A boda rider came speeding from the Ggaba side and rammed into the side of the car just as it was completing the turn into the lane. It was almost a head-on collision. The rider and his passenger, none wearing a helmet, flew into the air. The women in the accident car froze. Mouths wide, eyes closed, both hands to their ears. The boda man and his passenger rose as some pedestrians quickly rushed to the rescue.
The next day, at about 4pm, I was driving along Muyenga Road. Now TMT Supermarket, opposite the under-construction Mukwano Hillview Mall, is quite a popular roadside store for those seeking a quick buy. It has meant that there is a bit of traffic in the area, with cars endlessly turning in and out. So, a driver of car or rider of a bike has to be careful.
Well, I am driving from Muyenga side. Another car is driving in the opposite direction. It makes a sudden turn toward the supermarket. A boda guy is riding quite fast in the same direction as me.
The car that was turning hit the back end of the bike. Boda rider down. Passenger down. They have no helmets. People rush to the rescue. The passenger, a woman, just sits there. Dazed. Angry.
Out of the car that was involved in the accident emerges the driver. An imposing woman. She wastes no time berating the boda man. I could tell she was unhappy given her gestures — posture, finger-pointing and all. The six-year-old in my car, having observed everything, asks whether any of the people has been killed. And why is that woman just sitting there?
Two weeks earlier, on a Saturday, mid-morning, in slow traffic, I am on my way to Bunga. I approach the Ggaba-Soweto roads junction. A boda rider comes hurtling down. He overtakes me, of course on the wrong side. He then realises he is running into real trouble. There is car parked on the roadside right in front, blocking his way. He also notices that my car is approaching the parked car. He makes his move. The right decision would have been to stop his bike, allow me pass, then indicate and go around the parked car and continue his way.
Instead, once right behind the parked car, he swerved right and right into the front end of my car. Boda man and boda passenger down on the tarmac. Fortunately, my car was almost at a standstill. I stop. I look. People gather quickly. No one seems all that hurt, except for the scratch on my car. The gathered people tell me to go. They blame the boda man.
There is about 2km between the Ggaba Road and Muyenga Road accidents. I suspect these sorts of accidents are routine in Kampala. But should they?
I got thinking about these things after I read a small story, nonchalantly reported, in the New Vision online on Thursday. “NRM official succumbs to boda accident injuries,” the headline read. Mary Lokel, 62, a member of the NRM Women’s League from Kaabong, was in town to attend the party’s delegates conference. The story quotes a statement from the party: ‘“On her way from Namboole, she was knocked down by a speeding boda boda in Nakawa, a city suburb, as she crossed the road to pick a taxi to Luzira, where she was heading to spend a night at her daughter’s home one Stella Lokel.”’
Mary Lokel is dead.
Kampala is a shambolic mess. As a result, it is not only costing the economy, it is costing lives. It is maiming people. Attempts to clean up the place always come a cropper. Always frustrated by petty and ignorant politicians within the city and nationally. Pandering is their only game. Organise markets? No. Organise taxi parks? No. Organise bodas? No. Organise taxis? No. Organise anything? No.
Apparently, the politicians do this in the interest of the people — omuntu wa wansi. But it is omuntu wa wansi who is mostly dying on the bodas, who is losing merchandise because of disorganised markets without access roads for firefighters.
As is if breathing heavily polluted air everyday were not bad enough. Kampala is such a hostile space. Yet those with vested political and business interests see nothing wrong.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.