Kampala (The Monitor) – When traffic police withdrew from Kampala roads following media reports that they cause traffic jams, there was a huge and controversial gridlock. Tourism minister Godfrey Kiwanda is not worried, though. He says traffic jams are a tourist attraction. “Instead of going to the bars or church, you can decide to stand by the road and count cars and also watch how Ugandans drive,” he says.
The State Minister for Tourism, Mr Godfrey Kiwanda has launched the Kampala Sight Seeing Bus campaign which is aimed at promoting tourism in Kampala City.
Mr Kiwanda says Kampala residents and visitors complain about traffic jam but yet it is also a tourism product which the city can offer.
“Instead of going to the bars or church, you can decide to stand by the road and count cars and also watch how Ugandans drive. Ugandans know much about capital cities like Nairobi, Mombasa, New York but do not know Kampala,” he said.
The bus will move to various tourism sites in the city.
Last year, Mr Kiwanda launched the Kampala Rolex Festival to promote the popular local street food.
The snack, known as ‘Rolex’ in Uganda is a rolled chapatti containing eggs and vegetables and meat, depending on the buyer’s preference.
On Friday, Kampala’s Central Business District experienced perhaps the worst traffic lockdown ever with motorists spending hours without moving a metre. By 8 pm, the city was still on lockdown. Not even the notorious boda-boda that usually dangerously weave around, could move.
It all started after Kampala Capital City Authority leadership reportedly blamed the police for causing traffic jam at intersections where there are traffic lights by waving on or stopping vehicles regardless of whether the lights had turned green, amber or red. It is a view that has been shared by many motorists.
Police, on the other hand, said to the contrary, its officers were helping regulate vehicle flow as the few traffic lights in the city are not synchronised. To the point, they withdrew their officers from traffic junctions on Friday.
If the traffic paralysis that we witnessed in the city on Friday is anything to go by, the argument is now settled; police play a big role in managing city traffic and they must be respected and rewarded for this. City officials must, therefore, climb down from their grandstanding and work with all stakeholders to end the city’s jams. Let’s not let this traffic crisis go to waste!
First, the argument about whether public transport must be through thousands of smoking 14-seater mini-buses or 60-100 seater buses needs to be resolved. Dar es Salaam City in Tanzania, that for years suffered perhaps a worse traffic problem, resolved this two years ago and kicked out all the small mini-buses from the city, introduced “trailer-buses” and created lanes that are strictly for buses.
They also kicked out the boda-boda motorcycle taxis. The results have been amazing. Many residents now do not need to drive to work; they travel in buses quickly and safely!
In Kampala, politicians and bureaucrats have talked about this for years without moving one step because many of them have vested interests in the matatu and boda-boda business, or see taxi drivers and boda-boda riders as votes, not a menace.
Secondly, police need to be supported to come down hard on undisciplined drivers – whether they are driving big or small cars or red-plated government vehicles. This is because most traffic jams are caused by reckless driving, disregard of basic traffic rules and brazen impunity by political and security fat cats and those in their network of power. This must be broken just the way police has done with drink-driving. When we fix these two, we will be halfway the solution.