How is traffic jam in Kampala being addressed?

What you need to know:

  • Stuck on the road for hours. Tales of traffic jam in the city have become so commonplace that they are becoming a good reason to cancel appointments.
  • Amos Ngwomoya and Derrick Wandera explore the reasons behind this headache and what plans are in place to address it.

Mr Hilary Bagyenda, 43, is a resident of Bweyogerere, Wakiso District who runs a boutique along Luwum Street in Kampala.
On a weekday, he sets off from home at 6am, and he reaches his work place at 8am (earliest). I sometimes takes longer depending on the how heavy the traffic jam on Jinja Road is.
“I should ideally [take] about 30 minutes from home to my work place but I spend about two hours on the road. In the evening, I usually leave work at 7pm but I usually get home almost at 10pm. This stresses me every day whenever I think of either leaving home or work,” says Bagyenda.
His ordeal is shared by majority of people who either use their own cars or public means to go for work in the city. For those who use Jinja road, the stretch between Kyambogo and Spear Motors (about 1.3m) is a motorist’s nightmare, with holdups sometimes stretching to 40 minutes to an hour! It’s against this background that motorists have tasked government to urgently address Kampala’s traffic jam.
The cause
Mr Ramathan Kiraga, a motorist who routinely plys city routes, attributes the heavy traffic on the state of Kampala’s roads which he says are poor.
“All these roads you see in Kampala are very narrow and that’s why there is always heavy traffic because motorists have to compete for the available little space. That’s why you see many of them disrespecting traffic rules. Some of the roads have potholes hence congestion,” he says.
According to statistics from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), only 500km out of Kampala’s 2,100km road network is tarmacked.
Some of the most traffic jam-prone roads are; Bakuli-Kasubi Road, Namungoona-Nansaana, Wandegeya-Kalerwe, Nakawa-Bweyogerere, Entebbe Road, Yusufu Lule Road, Sir Apollo Kaggwa,Rubaga-Nateete, Mulago-Kamwokya and the Northern Bypass.
The traffic, which has evidently soared in the last couple of weeks, has since sparked off debate on the management of Kampala’s transport system, putting Kampala Capital City Authority in the spotlight.
Mr Charles Ssembabulidde, the Kampala Metropolitan traffic Police spokesperson, noted that traffic jam worsens when parents are either dropping children to school at the beginning of term or picking them up for the school holidays.
“For the [period] parents are taking back the children to school, the traffic jam [is] expected. The lights at some new junctions have not yet created a solution but they will soon be helpful,” he said.
He added: “The other thing is that we have indisciplined drivers who don’t want to obey traffic rules. However, we are already cracking down on them. But also, some parts of the roads have been undergoing reconstruction like around Shoprite of Entebbe road.”
Mr Bagyenda explained that such heavy congestion in the city reduces people’s working hours hence loss of government revenue. He added that government must take action immediately.

What’s happening elsewhere
According to a report published in Kenya’s Daily Nation, a sister newspaper to Daily Monitor, Kenya last year introduced the Nairobi Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) project which sees traffic control technologies such as intelligent traffic lights, road markings and signage to reduce traffic jam.
This was in addition to the wide roads, a number of flyovers and the stringent traffic rules.
However, despite the presence of traffic law, enforcement is still wanting in the country.

What is being done about it
Mr Moses Atwine, the KCCA director of Physical Planning said that much as the solution to the recurring problem is to widen the roads, the law has to be implemented.
“We have most of the points of traffic congestion caused by indiscipline but the problem is with implementing the law. Uganda is [a country] where observing the law is optional. We are in advanced stages of talks with the government to see that the proposed budget to widen the roads is effected,” he said.
Mr Peter Kaujju, the KCCA director of public and corporate Affairs acknowledged the public’s uproar over the heavy congestion but he attributed it to indiscipline motorists whom he said, aren’t patient hence they end up causing confusion on roads.
“For instance, we have signalled over 20 junctions in the city and these traffic lights have reduced traffic jam. However, people have to appreciate how these lights work and also obey other traffic rules,” he said in an interview recently.
To enforce compliance with the traffic rules, Mr Kaujju revealed that KCCA is currently working with the traffic police to weed out all defiant motorists, reducing congestion.
Daily Monitor understands that KCCA targets to signal at least 43 junctions in the city with an aim of reducing congestion hence improved urban mobility.
The traffic lights, just like the current roads project, are being funded by World Bank and implemented by KCCA. The five-year project will cost $183m.
In September 2015, JICA signed a loan agreement with the government of Uganda for $200m for the construction of the Kampala Flyover construction and road upgrading project.
The project is aimed at contributing to the reduction of traffic congestion in Kampala and it involves construction of flyovers at Kitgum House and Clock Tower junctions, widening of Mukwano Road, construction of an underpass junction at Nsambya junction, improving other associated junctions within the project area as well as traffic safety improvement at Shoprite and clock Tower.
According to Mr Ssebambulidde, the solutions would be to create new strategies like regulating the flow of cars in the city centre, making some of the roads dual carriage and widening the roads, among others.
“We can reorganise this city if the authorities takes it upon themselves to advance some strategic areas like levying taxes on the cars entering the city,” he said.
For instance, he said Rwanda introduced new tough rules against breaking traffic rules where drivers caught over speeding are compelled to pay heavy fines.
However, Mr Ssebambulidde said some roads are heavily congested, especially during peak hours because of the ongoing road construction projects, which leaves motorists to compete for the available space.
For instance, people residing in Kasubi, Namungoona and Nansana should brace for more time of traffic jam because of the stalled road project.
Although the contractors of this road had anticipated to complete it by last month, construction works are still ongoing because Kasubi vendors have deliberately refused to vacate the road reserve, arguing that government must first relocate them before they leave their current place of work.
There are also expansion works which are currently ongoing on the Northern Bypass hence the heavy traffic compared to the previous months.
But Dr Amin Tamale Kiggundu, a senior lecturer of urban planning at Makerere University, says the major cause of Kampala’s traffic jam is the number of private car and other means of transport like taxis which, he says, consume a lot of space yet they accommodate very few people.
He faults government on failing to create other satellite cities outside Kampala which people can go to for either shopping or work instead of flocking the city centre.
“Government must invest in public transport like buses because they accommodate many people compared to taxis. When buses are used, there is orderliness in the city because they are regulated hence reducing traffic on the roads,” he says.
He refers to capital cities like Nairobi and Kigali where he says they have managed to manage traffic jam by introducing stringent regulations for road users.
“The state of our roads in Kampala is appalling, but what authorities ought to do is construct roads with wider lanes, and also consider upgrading the access roads which can be used as short cuts,” he says.
To decongest the city, Dr Amin also proposes that all taxi parks and bus terminals must be relocated to the periphery areas to reduce the traffic gridlock they cause.
For instance, Kampala is grappling with at least 30 illegal bus terminals and multiple illegal taxi stages, which make most of the city roads impassable.
Mr Kaujju says KCCA is in final preparations of shipping in buses which will work as public means of transport hence reducing the number of taxis and boda bodas. He further revealed that plans are underway to relocate all bus terminals to the periphery areas to reduce congestion in the city.

Dorothy Nakaweesi: Kyaliwajjala
7.30pm: I left Namuwongo 8th Street (Monitor Publications Ltd offices) to the Old taxi park. For a journey which takes about 5-7 minutes during normal traffic flow, this time it took us about 40 minutes. The driver used the Entebbe Road route to access the Old taxi-park.
8.10pm: We entered the taxi park but at the Namugongo –Kyaliwajala stage, there were no taxis. I managed to get one after 35 minutes!
8.45pm: Driving out of the taxi park took us 18 minutes because our driver had to negotiate with other on-coming vehicles to exit along Luwum Street.
9.03pm: We successfully drove out of the park and traffic was flowing. On joining the Entebbe Road-Kampala Road junction, we had to wait for 7 minutes.
9.13pm: We then connected Kampala road heading towards Jinja Road. On reaching Esso Corner Junction, we hit a dead end. The traffic jam was maddening. It took us 27 minutes to reach the Jinja Road traffic lights.
9.49pm: We crossed through and here traffic was flowing smoothly until we reached Nakawa-UMA Show ground. Here it took us another 16 minutes to cross through the traffic lights.
10.10pm: We sailed through Nakawa, Kyambogo, Banda, Kireka and we reached Kyaliwajala in 30 minutes, which was a relief because the stretch between Kyambogo and Kireka usually has a terrible gridlock. On a bad day, I could have arrived home after 11pm after leaving office at 7:30pm
10.40pm: I arrived home.
Rachel Mabala: Kansanga
7.40am: I leave home and from Lukuli Nagenda-Soweto road to Kasanga market, its takes me 5 minutes
7.45am: At Kabalagala, there is a holdup for at most 7 minutes
7.52am: From Kibuli Road it takes me 8 minutes to Monitor publications
I take 20 minutes to get to my work place during school days. During the school holiday time, it takes me 10 minutes to get to MPL
Johnson Mayamba: Mukono town
7.05am: I set off from my home to Mukono town taxi stage.
7.11am: l boarded a taxi and within five minutes, we set off for Kampala.
7.26am: At Kigunga Trading Centre before Seeta Trading Centre, we encountered heavy traffic jam. It took us more than 20 minutes for a distance that takes less than five minutes.
7.51am: We got out of the Seeta jam.
8.10am: At Kazinga, just before we got to Bweyogerere Trading Centre, we got into another jam. We branched off to use an alternative route but soon hit a snag. A truck was stuck in the middle of the road. Our driver made a U-turn back to the main road. Between Kazinga and Kireka, we took more than 20 minutes.
8:34am: We reached Kireka and slowly passed through Banda and Kyambogo.
9:00am: We found another jam near Cafe Javas on Jinja Road, another place synonymous with heavy traffic jam.
9:23am: At Jinja Road near Internal Affairs Ministry, we took five minutes to get to Electoral Commission.
9.28am: I got out of the taxi near Electoral Commission and hopped onto a boda boda to drop me to my office in Namuwongo.
9.31am: I arrived at work.
For a journey which takes about 40 minutes during normal traffic flow and less than 30 minutes on a boda boda, this time it took me more than two hours to reach at my workplace.