Road resurfacing: We deserve better

A Kampala Capital City Authority worker fills a pothole with soil on Mukwano Road in Kampala on April 13. PHOTO | FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

The issue: Road works

Our view: It is nevertheless our hope that KCCA wakes up to the fact that a preventative approach to potholes can deliver significant savings compared to a reactionary approach.

Before an El Niño event elevated the risk of torrential downpours, the mileage of roads that were being resurfaced in Kampala had started to pick up pace. This was after loud protestations over the freewheeling that greeted pothole-related breakdowns in Uganda’s capital. While the quantity of rain falling in the capital has at times been intense, rarely has it been violent. Yet, that notwithstanding, the rain has still proven to be a disruptive force. If this year’s El Niño event goes on to be terrifying in its controlled ferocity as the Uganda National Meteorological Authority has severally warned, bad road surfaces could well be a mainstay.

This, we strongly believe, should not be the case. For one, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) at the start of this year needed little invitation to dangle the prospect of carrying out reconstructive surgeries on as many as 31 major roads in and around the capital. A loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) was responsible for putting a spring in the collective step of KCCA officials.

As it turns out, Kampala dwellers had to steel themselves for cosmetic surgeries on their roads. In fact, the term KCCA uses to describe its resurfacing method—the so-called forward maintenance—is nowadays in common parlance. The authority says a new mood of patience will have to take hold as reconstructive surgeries continue to roll out albeit at a snail’s pace.

What KCCA is wishy-washy about is the abjectly poor quality of the most recent resurfacing works. A refilled pothole on Eighth Street, Industrial Area, adjacent to our offices has already caved in barely weeks after being the beneficiary of cosmetic surgery.

Over in Seventh Street, the proverbial fresh coat of paint that the road got after a well-publicised visit by first son Muhoozi Kainerugaba in the company of Ms Dorothy Kisaka, the KCCA executive director, has long peeled off. Cavernous potholes welcome some of the country’s biggest taxpayers.

To say that we deserve better is an understatement. Unfortunately, shoddy repair jobs have gradually become the norm. This is largely due to widespread apathy among the citizenry. The status quo will remain if the citizenry does not get in the habit of demanding much better.

While potholes are caused by a combination of factors, it is easy to see why the onset of a rainy season always heralds the pothole season. Water seepage pockmarks and gouges what by all accounts passes for lethargically poor repairs on road surfaces that are way past their sell-by date.

It appears that the political economy of road resurfacing in Uganda installs a deliberate streak that maintains execution of shoddy work. Vignettes attribute such shoddiness to punishing kickbacks that leave executing companies running on fumes. This, the anecdotal evidence further alleges, creates a domino effect that has loss perpetuating loss.  If this is indeed the case, a long road beckons. It is nevertheless our hope that KCCA wakes up to the fact that a preventative approach to potholes can deliver significant savings compared to a reactionary approach. We deserve better.

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