16 August 2013

Somalia: Mogadishu Streets to See Traffic Lights for First Time in Decades

Mogadishu — Traffic lights are coming to Mogadishu for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Somali capital currently has no traffic lights at all, but the municipal government plans to start installing solar-powered ones at 54 intersections in October. For the time being, police officers have to direct cars and other vehicles at busy street crossings.

"We hope that once we install them at the intersections of Mogadishu, drivers will adhere [to traffic rules] and orders issued by traffic police," Benadir administration spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told Sabahi.

Installation of the Chinese-made lights will take three months, Yusuf said.

The first signals will go up at Mogadishu's busiest intersections: Kilometre 4, Kilometre 5, Sayidka, and Jubba.

The project will create jobs for 100 young people who will be tasked with installing the signals, Yusuf said.

Drivers who do not know the traffic code will receive special training on how to negotiate through the green, red or amber lights so they obey the law, Yusuf said.

"In conjunction with the road safety police, we will conduct an awareness campaign to help drivers, who learned how to drive during the chaotic years [after the civil war], understand how to follow the directions of the light," Yusuf said.

Lights will improve city driving

Road Safety Police Director General Ali Hirsi Barre said the lights would lead to safer and better managed roads.

"[Traffic lights] will make a huge difference in our security efforts in the capital, especially since small passenger cars are increase on the roads of Mogadishu and creating traffic jams," he said. "This will help give the traffic police an opportunity to rest at times, as they are currently at the intersections 24 hours a day."

Public transportation driver Ahmed Omar, 45, said traffic signals would contribute to regulating drivers in Mogadishu, he said.

"It will become much easier for police officers to identify a person who cannot drive well which will force everyone to learn the traffic rules first," said Omar, who has 25 years of experience behind the wheel.

Motorist Barni Duale of Hamar Weyne also welcomed the news.

"When I am driving my car in the city I get really confused because when I get to an intersection, there are no traffic lights to direct traffic like I am used to," said the 35-year-old who returned home to Somalia from England in June.

"Sometimes it is hard to tell if the cars are going left or right. I think this announcement from the administration will greatly help us in driving our cars without fearing sudden accidents," she said.

Mogadishu drivers seem to always be in a hurry, said Duale, but the new lights will help motorists slow down and pay more attention.

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