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Stop the carnage

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th February 2007 03:00 AM

UGANDA’S No1 COLUMNIST... INFORMED, CONTROVERSIAL AND PROVOCATIVE

Somebody this week wrote a letter saying that if terrorism caused as much death as the slaughter on our roads there would be a huge public outcry. Quite! And to terrorism you can add death at war, during robberies, and in o

John Nagenda

UGANDA’S No1 COLUMNIST... INFORMED, CONTROVERSIAL AND PROVOCATIVE

Somebody this week wrote a letter saying that if terrorism caused as much death as the slaughter on our roads there would be a huge public outcry. Quite! And to terrorism you can add death at war, during robberies, and in our waters. Therefore the question must be: how is it we have become almost indifferent to this unceasing slaughter by bad driving? (‘Bad’ being the greatest understatement of 2007 so far!) True we do shudder at the latest pictures of carnage, but we throw the papers aside with an “Oh dear” and continue with the day’s business. This has to stop. The brand new policy of speed governors is a good start, but only if strictly observed. Pour specialised cops onto our highways throughout the country. Any public vehicle over-speeding should be confiscated permanently; the driver charged and put away for a long stretch, besides losing the driving permit without delay. Any person found guilty of tampering with the speed governor should be deemed to be guilty of attempted manslaughter. All this should apply not only for matatu, taxis, but also for those killer lorries and buses which are such a menace on our roads. How often have we had nightmares of these things coming straight at you! But the public’s attitude must also change. There was a brief period when passengers used to form LCs (Local Councils) on every taxi, and tell the driver what’s what. It should be reconstituted immediately. Brief reports should be filed at police booths set up for the purpose. Any persistently faulting drivers to lose their driving permits. These and any other measures to be put in the Penal Code without delay. The previous day’s toll of accidents to be prominently displayed, reminding travellers that death by vehicle is no joking matter. The media should also highlight these figures, pronouncing any changes, better or worse. This litany is beginning to traumatise your columnist, and to keep the darkness at bay we can conclude on a lighter note. What better than the hapless Opposition MPs who walked out of parliament with such fanfare, only to sheepishly slither back only days later, as if they had been caught stealing from children’s school satchels? I particularly enjoyed Wednesday’s Monitor cartoon, showing them with tails between the legs, including women mark you! I cannot be the only one to have noticed the improvement in this paper in a matter of days since their recent changes. I bet the owners wish they had made them ages ago. Change, obviously, can be an improvement or the opposite! Look at the Uganda Cricket Association. Their recent change in committee was not all bad, but the very top might prove calamitous, I fear. There has been such steady progress recently in Ugandan cricket, culminating in a meeting in Kampala of the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council itself, that we thought we had reached safe harbour. But instead we might emulate Sisyphus, who was set to roll a huge rock up a hill throughout eternity. Every time he was nearly at the top the rock would slip back to the bottom. Not, please God, Ugandan cricket! I shall return to this.
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Italy, Italy! Mama Mia, I am not talking football or even Chianti or Sophia Loren. It is politics. About 280 days ago Romano Prodi was chosen to lead the country as Prime Minister. It was not for the first time, he had had one go before, ending in resignation in the late ‘80s. Done it again this week! Temperamental people these Italians. The person he replaced this time round was Silvio Berlesconni, incidentally the only Italian Premier for over half a century to last a full round, although even then it was touch and go! A decade ago the then Italian ambassador to our country took it upon himself to give me some advice. “Go slow,” he said, talking about Uganda. “Go slow?” I exploded. “You mean as slow as Italy? Fifty governments in the first fifty years since World War Two?” I don’t recall we ever spoke again. To end on an altogether different plane, this week that great leader of Tanzania, President Ben Mkapa, has dwelt under our roof. What an honour and a privilege (a phrase that is somewhat hackneyed, but in this case brilliantly true)! Fifty years ago when we first arrived at Makerere, he from the wilds where Tanzania touches Malawi, me from the village of Namutamba, we started arguing at high speed and never stopped. Now that we are approaching the domain of ancients, we argue less and reason more, which is as it should be, I think. What do you do with someone like him, retired from the Tanzanian presidency at less than 67? He is the undisputed Elder Statesman in his country, and much in demand elsewhere, but is that enough? There are perhaps more than a dozen African ex-presidents in this position (of varying states of Excellency!) but surely, collectively, more than capable of giving leadership to this troubled continent of ours. I believe a loose collection of these worthies already exists and was helpful in the D R Congo’s hour of greatest need. But it should be far more visible. At any rate, whether at his wonderfully delicious Dinner at the Sheraton (in food, drink and company) or at other encounters with those lucky enough to meet him, Ben Mkapa, without the slightest superiority or condescension, enjoyed and was enjoyed by the highest and lowest. What can you call him but great?

Stop the carnage

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