In some cases where motorists have been trapped in jam, they have been assaulted and their cars knocked or spoilt by drivers and guards of VIPs as they seek to pass
The increased number of motor vehicles that always cause heavy traffic jam during peak hours in Kampala city and the surrounding areas is undoubtedly one of the challenges that motorists are currently grappling with.
But as motorists wait for a solution from city planners to address this problem, there appears to have emerged a crop of rogue motorists, including those who are in charge of transporting and guarding Very Important Persons (VIPs).
As a result, Ugandans have of late witnessed a number of incidents where these rogue motorists, especially security personnel transporting VIPs, have turned city roads into scenes from where they show their military might against hap less civilian motorists.
A number of motorists have fallen victim to the cruel and inhumane treatment meted out on them by the VIP drivers and their guards, as they try hard to create way where there is no way, during traffic jam.
In some cases where motorists have been trapped in jam, they have been assaulted and their cars knocked or spoilt by drivers and guards of VIPs as they seek to pass. Ironically, most of these VIPs do not have a right of way, which would have by law required other motorists to give way for them to pass.
As a result, several motorists have publicly complained on social media and through letters to media outlets, cursing what they have branded as ‘rogue escorts', who have allegedly made it a habit to harass other road users.
Sam Malunda, a marketeer, said he was brutalised by bodyguards, who were escorting a judge he did not know on August 28. The guards assaulted Malunda, cocked guns at him, and knocked his car, leaving it dented.
He narrated that it was about 7:30pm when a police escort car registration number UP 5562, which was acting as a lead car and clearing way for the judge, found him stuck in jam near St. Francis Primary School in Ntinda, Kampala, as he drove home from work.
"The car came from behind my car with sirens on. Unfortunately, the jam was so heavy and I had nowhere to go. As they approached, one policeman who I can ably identify given a chance, banged my car and as I drew the window screen down to explain that I had nowhere to go.
But he instead slapped me. I am now treating the wound I sustained on my lower lip," he narrated. Malunda said when he got out in an attempt to explain, the driver of the police car drove towards him and he knocked his car.
"He narrowly missed my leg because I jumped away. Then I saw one of the guards cocking his gun," a visibly angry Malunda narrated. On September 2, another motorist complained that his car was hit by the lead car for one of the ministers, and that one of the guards bodyguard threatened to beat up the motorist for not giving them way.
The motorist said he would have loved to create way for the VIP, but there was nowhere to go due to heavy traffic jam. Using social media, another motorist ranted about the behaviour of a two-star army officer's guards. A two-star General is at the rank of Major General.
The incident happened along Bombo road after the driver of the General's escort car pulled out a cane to beat up motorists who had created way for the officer to pass. According to the motorists' rant, they had nowhere to go, and they were surprised when the driver of the General's escort car pulled out a cane.
Following the social media post, another motorist posted; "One such convoy commander ordered for my arrest because I did not give way in traffic jam where I had no place to go. When they disappeared, the traffic officer let me go, sneering at 'those people who just disorganise all of us with their lead cars!"
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) spokesperson, Peter Kaujju, said while on the road, many people act in a very crazy and surprising manner, especially drivers.
"They are very hasty with no respect for others. These days, you see many with sirens which used to be a preserve of the police. There are few people with the right of way according to the Road Safety and Traffic Guidelines," Kaujju noted.
He urged motorists not to get pushed into drainages because they have heard a crazy sound or seen a lighting car which is not entitled. "We have got to fight for our space especially if it is not an ambulance or those in the Gazette. People should be disciplined and stay in their lanes," Kaujju stated.
Charles Ssebambulidde, the traffic police spokesperson, said VIPs with the right of way have disciplined guards who know that there are other road users. "The other road users have a duty to give way to such VIPs," Ssebambulidde pointed out. He, however, noted that drivers of VIPs must know that they are subject to the provisions of the traffic and road safety act at all times, and they should therefore observe the law.
Urban planner weighs in
Amanda Ngabirano, an urban planner and lecturer at Makerere University, gave a holistic approach towards solving the chaos in Kampala, and she predicted that traffic congestion in the city will get worse if public transport is not urgently fixed.
"There are high-capacity carrying vehicles that require special infrastructure. Public transport may not be successfully run without government support and investment, especially when it comes to infrastructure provision. It calls for priority lanes, lest they compete with the low-capacity carrying vehicles like salon cars and 14-seater vans, plus the other vehicular traffic. Their movement has to be prioritised," she explained.
For this system to work, Ngabirano said it calls for such facilities as stations, stops and terminals. She noted that these can be taken up and operated by the private sector, but controlled by the public sector.
For now, she observed, private cars will continue being the most attractive to all, despite their numerous economic, social and environmental negative effects. Ngabirano also suggested that parking has to be managed in a way that on-street parking is minimised, and that space is allocated to public transport and active mobility - walking and cycling.
"This works very well if harmonised with the public transport system and the walking and cycling network. It will encourage park-and-ride for short distances (where people park their cars and ride bicycles)!" In terms of enforcement, Ngabirano noted that the road-user behaviour in Kampala is very bad, adding that sometimes road users choke on traffic due to their own impatience and selfishness.
She said this calls for traffic officers working without fear or favour to ensure that all road users behave on the road and where applicable, the wrongdoers should be fined. In addition to enforcing the law, Ngabirano argued that the general public has to be sensitised regarding road-user behaviour and the use of road infrastructure.
"This has been taken for granted; but it calls for serious investment. With all the radio stations and television channels, social media, print media, and local leadership, we can make some great steps, if the planning authorities take it seriously," she suggested.
Another solution, Ngabirano observed, is ensuring proper land use. "Some land users are in wrong locations: This calls for re-arranging, change of use, and perhaps demolition, or shifting according to the new plan to address the problem of conflict; not only traffic jam but also road safety."
She cited roadside markets, which need to be shifted, adding that there must be a master plan to guide all this. Vehicle statistics According to the 2013-2017 figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the number of private cars registered has been uneven over the years, but on average, the country registers about 42,000 private vehicles annually.
The 2018 UBOS statistical abstract shows that there were 42,005 newly registered private vehicles by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in the year 2017. The number stood at 45,169 vehicles in the year 2013, and it slightly rose to 45,560 vehicles in 2014.
In 2015, it fell a bit to 43,337 vehicles, while in 2016, a total of 33,750 vehicles were registered. UBOS figures showed that Government registered motor vehicles have been on the increase since 2013 when 899 vehicles were registered by URA.
In 2014, the number increased to 1,057 vehicles, and later to 1,259 vehicles in 2015 and to 2,477 vehicles in 2016.