Every year, nearly 3,000 people die on Uganda’s roads due to one of the highest accident rates in Africa.
Only South Africa (about 14,000) and Nigeria (4,000) have higher road accident deaths, but these are countries with significantly bigger populations than Uganda.
The reality of our high accident rate reared its ugly head again last week when 12 people perished at Kitigoma village on the Jinja-Kampala road. A number of the accident victims were political and public service leaders in Mbale and Busia districts, while another was a fresh graduate from Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi who was still dressed in her gown.
What caught the public’s attention, though, was the presence of a Member of Parliament (MP), Cyrus Amodoi Imalingat, who was representing Toroma.
On most social media platforms, the discussion centered on whether an MP who receives a substantial car grant and a fuel allowance should have been using public transport to travel to his constituency.
The motivations behind that debate notwithstanding, such debates miss the issues at hand. As a former mayor of Colombia’s Bogotá city, Enrique Penalosa, once put it, “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”
Similarly, in a country whose leaders are aspiring to take it to middle-income status within the not-so-distant future, leaders like MP Amodoi and Mbale’s Peter Shimiyu should be commended for living modest lives to a point where they are comfortable with using public transport.
Instead, the debate on our social media platforms and other fora should be about how our inefficient public transport systems let them down to a point where they lost their lives in needless circumstances.
The police have attempted to reduce accidents on some of our roads through their Fika Salama campaign, and they should be commended. However, as the Kitigoma accident has shown, the police needs to do a lot more.
In Kitigoma, MP Amodoi and the other 11 victims died because of reckless driving. This is something we should stamp out. In this day and age, no Ugandan should die from avoidable accidents.
Therefore, we urge everyone to switch the debate to finding ways of ensuring that we avoid such needless loss of life of people who are at the prime of making their contribution to the growth of our dear country.