By Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda
This time around, I have decided to write about a rather unfamiliar subject. I know there is nothing military about road accidents, they occur when fate knocks and as and when the human sense of judgment falls short. So clearly I am doing this not because I have any expertise in this field but because two weeks ago I lost my mechanic and my friend in a nasty road accident.
Richard Namugela was a typical Muganda boy who learnt his skills on the job. I had never had any doubt in his ability to fix my car whenever it got a problem. The tall dark young man had no wife or child in his life. His spanner was his life and family. He worked in Wandegeya in a typical Ugandan motor garage.
On the fateful day, our other mechanic friend, Abdullah Ntambi, called me in a clear voice. He said Namugela had been involved in an accident but hoped he would get better. In fact, after seeing the doctor, he went back to his sister’s house and watched English premier league games.
Two days later, he started feeling pain and was rushed back to Mulago Hospital. At that time, my wife went to see him in the hospital. When she came back, she was short of words. She only told me that Namugela was in pain. That is when I knew something was terribly wrong.
On the day he was knocked, he had been travelling on a boda boda, seated together with another lady. Although it is a crime, according to the Police to carry two passengers on a motorcycle, on the fateful day, the rider had dodged all law enforces to deliver my friend to his death. What bothers me though is that the runaway vehicle which knocked the three simply took off. The killer vehicle has since been at large. But surely, why knock a person and leave them on the tarmac in pain?
In order to keep watch of our streets, I want to propose that the Government installs CCTV cameras on our streets. This would keep errant drivers in check but also help in monitoring criminal activity on our roads. I know this is not cheap but how much does a life cost?
According to Police reports for 2012, road accidents claimed more than 3,000 and another 13,137 people received permanent bodily deformities.
Although on the overall, there was a reduction in the number of accidents from 22,272 accidents in 2011 to 19,870 in 2012. The picture remains grim. These deaths also included 681 children of school going age.
Moreover, the road sector is the most important mode of transportation in Uganda as it carries 97% of freight cargos and 99% of the passenger traffics. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of vehicles in Uganda increased from 300,000 to 800,000. Today, Uganda has the second highest rate of road accidents in Africa and the world after Ethiopia.
According to the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, Uganda is named among countries with alarmingly high road accident rates. Accident death rate is 10.1 per 100,000 people.
Besides, it is estimated that the country loses approximately sh800b per year due to traffic accidents.
Well, my friend Namugela is gone but we can do something to change this trend. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
The writer is Defence and UPDF spokesman