My personal encounter with impunity on Kampala roads

Emilly C. Maractho (PhD)

What you need to know:

  • “Kofi Annan once said, ‘all cruel and brutal things, even genocide, starts with the humiliation of one individual’.

Kampala and its environs can be unpredictable. You can literally wake up on top of the world and by evening you feel that the world is on top of you. On Tuesday last week, I was at Bweyogerere by 6:50am.

To my surprise, there was heavy traffic towards Mukono. It seemed unusual. I am yet to know what had happened, because by 9am I was still in Namanve. And it is there that my day turned upside down.

Exhausted by the hours spent to get there, having woken up really early, all in order to avoid being caught up in a traffic jam, I was praying for a miracle, when I got hit by a car.

Whenever there is traffic jam, many of those who have the fortune of driving red number plates double their fortune, escaping the traffic by all means, regardless of who bleeds in the process.

They drive on the wrong side of the road and in many ways aggravate the traffic situation. The problem is, this particular day, both sides were jammed, affording limited opportunities for escaping it. Still, a narrow lane was created in the middle, to squeeze in our special citizens.

Unfortunately, it is hard to envisage a narrower passage ahead. Where I had been stuck for close to 20 minutes had a trailer truck on the opposite side, so this drone car, reaching us was too large to squeeze through, and forced its way all the same, hitting my car so hard.

Although the car was damaged, the man looked at me and continued, attempting to disappear. Not a word.

I followed him through the narrow road and caught up with him where he could not manoeuvre. I levelled up with him and lowered my window, asked the man driving if he was aware that he had knocked me. He menacingly looked at me as if I was mad. For a moment I thought this man could shoot me. The man he was driving smiled. I asked him again, this time annoyed, and he still just looked on. I had taken pictures of his number plate because I knew he would still vanish.

And as soon as there was an opening the opposite side, he crossed to the right and vanished.

The man to repair my damaged car had just ignored me and left me there fuming. The man was driving a white drone, UG 2415C. This is not an isolated case, many have been knocked I am sure, and we who only face damaged cars still feel lucky. It could be worse. We normalise their misbehaviour in the process.

It is possible this number plate is not on the road anymore I am told, but whoever deployed them that morning of February 13, will know who knocked me. I was so angry I wanted to drive to State House to complain.

Yes, State House, not the police. I have watched our good officers helpless when it comes to these groups that exercise more power than they do.

Every time I have seen these special people zoom past; I wonder about their instructions. Are they trained to be mean on the road, to disregard other road users and injure at will without the slightest remorse or make good in case of damage?

I wish this was about me being knocked by a man driving a car with State House number plate. No, it is not. This is about the ever-increasing level of impunity we face as Ugandans.

As if it is not enough that we already deal with everyday corruption and a host of usual irritations because of the dysfunction in our systems. We lose so much work time on the road.

I recently attended a service where the preacher was talking about wisdom. He said many of us act without an ounce of wisdom every day and pay the price later. He told us the story of a man he sat with in a taxi a week earlier, who was old, dirty, unkept and hungry.

The man had asked him for Shs5000. When he gave the man that money, he narrated to him how during the good old days of President Idi Amin, he was a big man.

He had a lot of money and dined in the highest places. Then government changed and so did his fortunes. He has since lived a miserable life, his children paying the ultimate price.

The problem with those in power and their associates is that they never ever imagine change in fortunes. They envisage permanence in all things at all times. They have never seen the best laid plans crumble. They keep lying to themselves about how powerful they are.

Kofi Annan once said, ‘all cruel and brutal things, even genocide, starts with the humiliation of one individual’.

In Uganda, we may relate with this. An individual was humiliated in an election in 1980 and the rest as they say, is history. And here we are, a real living history.

Ms Maractho (PhD) is a senior lecturer at Uganda Christian University.      [email protected]