What you need to know:
- Boda bodas came up to fill a gap: public transport had been failed by this regime.
Didn’t you ask yourself what a wealthy minister’s child was doing on a boda boda when she was knocked dead? Yeah; me too! That was one of the many questions when news hit town that the lovely young lady who had been killed was Belinda Birungi, daughter of Dr Sam Mayanja, State minister for Lands.
Let it be known and properly told that Belinda is by no means the first person to die in a boda boda accident. As matter of fact, there were several boda boda deaths within that period; but the brutal reality of life is that when the lion dies, you really can’t begin discussing the death of the rabbit.
The reason you have people in stable and developed countries living till 80 or 90 with relative ease is that the existence and efficiency of systems and structures protect them from needless deaths, all factors remaining constant.
When the British handed over Uganda to natives, there were no boda bodas running around. Motorcycles were private affairs and were not this common. The transport sector was dominated by the State-owned buses (Uganda Transport Company, UTC and Peoples Transport Company, PTC) that picked you from your doorstep, on schedule. They also took you to every part of Uganda, on schedule. You could also use the train.
Towns were planned and organised. There were no slums and shanty towns as we see everywhere today. Former presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin (the ‘swine’) maintained this. It is the very enlightened leadership of Mr Museveni, fresh from his five-year sojourn in the bush that firmly put an end to the concept of an organised country.
When a regime’s only objective is to stay in power, to the exclusion of everyone else and to enrich themselves, they’ll never focus on anything else. That, in short, is why Belinda, a minister’s daughter, was killed in a boda boda accident. Boda bodas came up to fill a gap: public transport had been failed by this regime – Uganda Railways and the bus companies were badly mismanaged and they shut down. Most of their assets were grabbed. Development was haphazard: towns were growing without plan, people were building everywhere, even in road reserves.
Movement in the capital became impossible because of traffic jams, so we turned to boda boda. Ministers are able to bully their way around traffic jams because they have guards and official vehicles. But their kids might not always be able to get the same privilege, at least not all the time. Had we had a more organised city, as the British had intended, Belinda would have waited for the bus, boarded, sat down nicely and travelled safely.
To some Ugandans, this country is progressing well. Only those who are able to compare our ‘progress’ with what is happening in civilised places can discern that the regime of Mr Museveni has taken this country backwards. Only those who are able to place Mr Museveni’s “achievements” in the historical context of Uganda can discern that he has done so much harm to this country that the sooner he leaves, the better for this country.
This is why it is important for a nation to have term limits for leaders – at all levels, including both presidency and Parliament – so that we can constantly have new energies and fresh imaginations being infused into our governance spectrum.
This country only reacts when someone prominent dies. We didn’t have a law against talking on the phone while driving. It took the death, on the fourth of January 2004, of Jaffer Shahina, wife to a prominent Asian businessman Zaid Alam for Uganda to enact a law. Busy on the phone, Shahina didn’t hear the train – at Kinawataka, near Kampala. And it was legally okay not to wear a seatbelt until the death of Attorney General Francis Ayume on the May 17, 2004. Belinda needn’t have died.
She is a symbol of the bitter price a nation pays when it compromises basic common sense and good governance tenets, thinking it can get away with its sins. If Belinda’s sad death could stir and spur us into rethinking our so-called “development” under the Museveni regime, then she won’t have died in vain. Rest in peace, Belinda; you deserved better!
Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda