8 January 2013

Uganda: Three Resolutions for Us in 2013


I do not know how to make New Year resolutions, and when I do, I break them early in the year. But do you need a new year to start doing what is right? I have a number of resolutions I would like to propose we collectively make for 2013.

We should try to make Kampala cleaner

You do not have to be an engineer or a great philosopher to know that when you throw plastic water and soda bottles on the streets they will end up in the water channels.

And when the channels get blocked, it will cause floods. Surprisingly, many people who work in Kampala are widely travelled, go for business and leisure in Dubai, London, Spain, Turkey and China.

They have seen how those places are looked after. Inexplicably, on their return they put their families in their SUV luxury vehicles and as they drive through the city or on highways their modern children keep tossing soda bottles and food wrappings out of the windows onto the streets, which is a sign of backwardness.

Our streets are not littered only by the poor and the unexposed. I cannot understand why we cannot keep used phone recharge cards, food wrappings and empty plastic bottles in the car until we get back home or to the nearest public dust bin.

Colonialism did a lot of harm to us. It destroyed our inner sense of self, and threw us in a state of cultural emptiness. We are neither properly Westernised nor genuinely African.

Get rid of or significantly reduce the gridlock roads

This can be achieved if we all decide to strictly observe traffic rules, and hold one another to them. The starting point is to stigmatise selfishness.

In international law there is what we used to call 'mobilisation of shame' to make a country in breach of its international human rights obligations feel ashamed before other countries.

In Western and other societies, selfishness brings shame; it is anti-social. We need to collectively speak out against the inconsiderate use of motor vehicles on the road.

It is an offence under the Traffic and Road Safety Act, but no one enforces it; certainly not our traffic police. In this, we need the Government's help. Security is important, but it should be balanced with other imperatives.

The Government should reopen some of the roads that are, routinely or permanently, closed and review its security strategies that would work without having to close those roads.

That section of Buganda Road known as the Constitutional Square is closed about four days a week and without warning. There are other roads which are now fully closed; one of them is part of Shimoni road, the sector between Serena and Imperial Royale Hotels.

This road helped to reduce the traffic from Nile Avenue. It is now private property. The ring road that goes to Nomo Gallery is now closed. Prince Charles Drive in Kololo is no longer a thoroughfare.

It has been closed in the middle. Americans have also closed some of our roads. Isn't it possible for security to be maintained without closing the few roads we have?

Deal more effectively with noise pollution

Anyone with a mosquito net or music CD to sell mounts huge loud speakers on a Fuso truck and goes out blasting maddening music interspersed with announcements of discounts.

The place in Kampala Road in the neighbourhood of King Fahd Plaza is the daily scene of 'promotion' of different mobile phones with unbearable noise.

I do not know the resolution we should pass about the street children that flock your window while you stuck in traffic. Some of them borrow or hire other people's children and use them to solicit money.

The babies do not have any right at all.

The writer is a lawyer in private practice. 

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