Mbale — The installation of solar powered traffic lights in Mbale Municipality has caused excitement among residents who say the development will reduce congestion and curb accidents.
The residents including pedestrians and motorists have appealed to government to ensure the traffic lights are fully functional to serve the intended purpose.
The solar street lights have already been installed on Republic, Pallisa, Nabuyonga Rise and Mugisu Hill roads, which were constructed under the World Bank-funded Uganda Support to Municipality Infrastructure Development (USMID) programme at a cost of Shs10 billion.
The installation is being done by Zong Mei, a Chinese company, that was awarded the contract to finalise the works at a cost of Shs7 billion after municipal council terminated the contract of Plinth Technical Services Company Ltd in 2015 .
Mr Titus Magomu, a boda boda rider at St Martin's stage, said the traffic lights will reduce accidents on the busy Mbale-Tirinyi route.
"Our leadership is now focused because if they were not, they would not have thought about the management of traffic flow. We are very happy and we will support them now that they are moving in a right direction," he said.
Mr Magomu said the roundabout where traffic lights were installed has been a black spot since time immemorial.
"We have lost many of our colleagues in that area due to accidents. It will no longer be the case now as long as traffic lights are functioning," he said.
When we visited the streets last week, we found clusters of residents staring at the lights in awe.
Mr Robert Wamanga, a resident, told Daily Monitor in an interview that the town is slowly regaining its lost glory.
"When growing up, this town was a beautiful scenery admired by everyone including the then president Milton Obote until the NRM leadership took over power. We are happy the current leadership is doing something, which gives us hope," he said.
Most of the business streets, the taxi and bus parks that were previously surrounded by broken sewers and garbage heaps have been cleaned up by the municipal council except Mbale main market, where garbage heaps have engulfed the facility.
Cases of street children pick pocketing and snatching people's property have also reduced and prostitutes who have been operating in the dark corners on busy streets have also relocated to outskirts.
Mr Semanda Twaha Bin Musa, the president of Mbale Municipal Development Forum (MDF), said more traffic lights will be installed on other major roundabouts in town.
"We are working to see that the town meets the standards of a city," he said.
Mr Denis Ntege Kiwanuka, the office-in-charge of traffic, said installation of traffic lights is a big step towards controlling traffic flow in town.
He added that as result, traffic police officers will be removed from the junction.
"Mbale is a developing city and we can't keep deploying traffic officers to control traffic. The automatic traffic system will play a tremendous job in regulating the movement of vehicles," he said.
However, some road users have asked authorities to educate them on how the traffic lights work, saying they are ignorant.
Need for sensitisation
"Many of us don't know what those colours mean, we have to be taught," one of the boda boda rider, said. The Mbale Municipality mayor, Mr Mutwalib Zandya, said his leadership is engaging police to organise a training for motorists on traffic lights. "I have talked to DPC to see how best the motorists can be helped on how to use traffic lights to reduce on accidents and traffic flow in town," he said.
He said they have plans to expand traffic lights to all major roads but they are being hampered by resources.
The municipality town clerk, Mr Paul Batanda, said: "Most of the Municipalities use electricity powered traffic lights. It's only in Mbale with solar traffic lights."