I’m now not completely sure of why I was beaming with excitement when I learnt that the Uganda Traffic Police had started to penalise motorists – mostly drivers of government cars – who drive recklessly on our roads. It could have been that I thought their effort, if maintained, would root out the entrenched impunity that these drivers carry. It could also have been that for once, the Goliath of our traffic mess was being slung to their death by our Davids [poor traffic officers].
But I definitely knew later in the week when I drove around that the powerful are powerful and the powerless are, well, powerless. Put succinctly, the powerful do what they can and the powerless suffer what they must. On my commute, the message was clear, convoys of top officials of the government still broke the law with abandon, sneering at traffic officers and even ordering them around. They were lucky not to get slapped – as we’ve witnessed before. What was driving within the lane for a minister? A mere lane? Down on potholed tarmac? Unbelievable that we could even ask them to respect the law. READ: Motorists ask govt to integrate traffic fines into URA system
Police to declare amount collected from penalty ticket defaulters So the city is now back to its lousy past. After the small inconvenience of the few that were nabbed, front face with cameras et al. The rules are being broken front and center with an accompanying and dizzying impunity. That’s truly the fate of policy in Uganda. In government school, we are taught that policy should be consistent, legal, enforceable and all round applicable. We are taught that what’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander and yet, on Ugandan roads, in the same minute the laws are being broken, an EPS crackdown is unsparing for ordinary drivers. Police confess to fetching no less than a billion shillings in two weeks of enforcing the EPS tickets and yet for a week of crackdown on government vehicles – government mostly by the way – breaking the traffic laws, we can’t find a number for those ticketed neither can we find any for those detained. The traffic of a city tells a lot about how the country is managed. In countries so close to us, it can often feel like a death knell to try and take a bike without a helmet. It’s in fact almost impossible to find a rider to take one without a helmet. If the laws are that tough on a helmet, take a guess how tough they are on running a red light? Driving from different lanes? Unthinkable! Our law breakers are only able to do so here because of the brazen impunity they enjoy. A bribe here, a phone call there, a threat of sanction are all in the cocktail of things to do to get away with traffic impunity. Traffic police should give us a reason to believe that these enforcements are fair and apply in equal measure to all.