By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
Civil society organizations want Government to consider widening roads in a bid to curb road accidents that have threatened lives of many Ugandans.
The Executive Director CISCOT, Richard Baguma who was interacting with the Committee of Physical Infrastructure blamed majority of road crashes on narrow roads and called for commitment from government in addressing the issue.
If the government does not address the issue of widening roads, the country will not achieve much in curbing road carnage, the Civil Society Coalition on Transport in Uganda (CISCOT) has told Members of Parliament.
Baguma, together with his team were appearing before the committee to present their views on the status of road safety on Wednesday, 10 August 2022.
“We are looking at the structural problem of access to land that can be used for public infrastructure. Within the courts of law, government can convert property by making adequate compensation to have the wide roads,” said Baguma.
He called for enactment of the Land (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and Land Acquisitions (Amendment) Bill, 2018to address the land question on which the infrastructure passes.
On 21 July 2022, the Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa referred debate on road safety to the Committee on Physical Infrastructure following a request by the Ministry of Works and Transport for an additional Shs21 billion to implement road safety activities.
Baguma said that the civil society supports the request but quickly added that it is inadequate.
“We affirm without a shadow of a doubt that doubling that amount will make much impact,” he said.
According to Baguma, Uganda loses 3,600 people yearly to road carnage and he proposed the re-introduction of light rail transport to curb the deaths.
“If we had a rapid bus transport system, our people will not die at the rate at which they are dying because statistics show that most of us die on motor cycles. If we had buses, nobody would want to take a motor cycle,” said Baguma.
He also faulted the traffic department of police for non-vigilance and failure to implement traffic laws.
“I still ask if this committee interacts with the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety to see if you have performance review for them,” he said.
Baguma called for re-establishment of the 2019 multi-sectoral committee on road safety saying that it will ensure that road safety issues are prioritized.
“If we are able to argue that we make road safety a national security issue, then we have the eye and ears of the President. The Physical Infrastructure committee can persuade him better. 3,600 people are dying every year, this is a massacre,” he said.
He also asked the MPs to expedite approval of the draft United Nations (UN) resolution to recognise road safety as a human right issue.
Baguma also suggested that in the long term, a new levy for road safety and climate change could be introduced, under the Public Finance Management Act and Appropriations Act.
“We can also have the social impact bonds as domestic revenue mobilisation strategy. The World Bank has already done that in Georgia. The road safety impact bonds have already been provided for in one of the member countries, so we can convince them also to bring those safety bonds in Uganda,” Baguma said.
Tororo District Woman MP, Hon. Sarah Opendi urged the civil society to increase advocacy on improved designs of roads saying that the current designs are to blame for the road accidents.
“We need to talk about this issue until Uganda National Roads Authority deals with it. In developed countries, there are clear road separators. It is very unfortunate that we lose many people daily to road carnage,” said Opendi.
Maruzi North MP, Hon. Nelson Okello said that the committee is willing to support the request for the additional funding for road safety on condition that part of it is channeled towards improving road designs.
“If the issue of road designs is not addressed, we shall not reduce road accidents. If we had separations, we would avert some of these accidents,” said Okello.
Hon. Stella Atyang (NRM, Moroto District) challenged the civil society to investigate the utilisation of fees collected by the Inspectorate of Vehicles (IOV).
“A lot of money is collected by the IOV but the question is on how this money helps in curbing accidents,” she said.