9 December 2012

Uganda: Theft of Road Sign-Posts Must Stop

President Yoweri Museveni has given an ultimatum to local leaders in areas where road signposts have been stolen to recover the items or be fired.

The most affected roads are apparently Soroti-Lira and Kabale-Kisoro, both of which have been newly reconstructed. RDCs, chief administrative officers, security officers and local chiefs have up to December 30 to locate stolen signposts and reflectors, the President directed the minister of Works and Transport in a letter, according to press reports.

Although we fully understand the President's frustration, we are disappointed that with such a large government in Uganda, it must take his personal intervention in such a matter. The government spends lots of money, most of which is borrowed, to construct roads.

Ransacking these roads to make a quick buck is simply unacceptable. Moreover, the stolen items are meant for road safety; so, the thieves have no regard for road users' lives. This happens in Kampala as well where signposts, streetlight bulbs, cables, manhole covers, electricity wires, are all targeted by thieves.

The public has a right to good infrastructure. But once such social services come our way, it's incumbent on us to guard them jealously. It's a civil obligation to do so. Any public property stolen as we watch is like shooting ourselves in the foot because we are all losers.

For instance, large sections of the railway line between Kampala and Kasese have over the years been uprooted by thieves. Restoration of the same will cost taxpayers heavily. We must begin to look at public property as our own, only then can we start to protect it from the vandals amongst us.

The 'I-don't-care' attitude that is so prevalent in our country is partly behind the widespread corruption.

In the end, to fight corruption and theft in high public office, we must fight petty theft as well. An individual who steals road signposts would definitely steal billions in the pension office or in the Office of the Prime Minister given the chance.

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