Uganda: Give Way! Schools Are Open, Monster Drivers Are Loosed Upon Our 'Wide' Roads

opinion

All good things must come to an end one day. And so has my driving bliss after a short two months -- December and January! Now Kampala's road monsters are back, so it is back to matatus and boda boda for me.

There are two kinds of drivers that terrify me and my likes: matatu drivers and mothers who take children to school.

At the end of November, schools were closed and stressed mothers stayed at home. Now that schools have opened, the madmen who happen to be female drivers are back on the road.

No other word can describe them better than 'madmen' -- the biological gender notwithstanding.

No mad woman can be that mad! You enter a junction and the light turns red so you stop, eyes on the traffic light then your car shakes slightly and you turn to see what typhoon has hit you.

It is actually a hurricane in form of another car whizzing past. At the wheel is a mean-looking madman with her mouth twisted in fury and her knuckles on the verge of tearing through her skin as she grips the steering wheel. You take all this in one micro second because she is already gone, with her terrified child in the back seat.

You thank God the 'madman mother' did not tear off your door and arm in her rush to reach her child's school.

One thing is certain, she wouldn't have stopped if that had happened. She would have first beaten the deadline of dropping the child to school and then start assessing the damage on her car, and then attend to the less serious matters like repairing your car and treating your severed arm, than annoying the teacher.

It is only a person who has never had a school-going child in Kampala that can think this scenario is an exaggeration. Children live in mortal fear of the teachers and mothers are scared that the teachers will terrorise their youngsters. So mothers drive like madmen in the jam-chocked roads of Kampala.

Traffic police officers cannot do anything about these women because they would have to arrest thousands of them and require them to deploy the entire national police force to traffic duty in the city every morning.

But since it would take at least two days for each police officer to return to their duty station and report for traffic duty in the morning to arrest the mad drivers, the entire force would have to be stationed permanently in Kampala.

What cowards like me do is to avoid driving when schools are open, and wait until children go for holidays. That leaves only the matatu drivers to contend without the madmen mums. Then you can relieve the joy of driving a car with only half of the frenzied motorists.

There are now signals that a bus service will be re-established in Kampala later in the year. A fleet of 2,000 imported from India for the operation. If well managed, many of the school-going children who now on average are being carried one per saloon car will take the buses.

One bus would remove 70 or more cars off the city roads in the morning, greatly easing the congestion.

We are now in a phase of cautious anticipation. Cautious because we are not sure that Kampala city can take 2,000 and keep them in motion without designated bus lanes.

But if the physical planners can pull this off by the close of the year, then we will be having a fundamentally transformed city.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. 

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