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Some One Hundred Plus Officers Taking Bribes Were
‘Sacked’ And Forces Discipline Followed Immediately

Coastweek -- After taking a break from Rwanda matters last week, I would like to continue on the theme of Kigali and its cleanliness, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

Whilst driving around and admiring the spic and span city, I also noticed that whilst there was none of the usual rubbish that one would find on streets and their surrounds in Nairobi, there was very little debris that could be associated with road traffic accidents.

A drive on almost any street or road in Nairobi, or indeed in any place in Kenya, would expose one to accident debris either from vehicles in the form of shattered glass, vehicle body parts, shredded tyres and so forth.

One will also find damage to the road infrastructure or architecture – bent or demolished street lights, broken flower beds, roundabout kerbs or edging that has been damaged by vehicles climbing over them …. the list is long.

I use Uhuru Highway quite frequently when I am in Nairobi either on journeys to and from the airport or linking between the various parts of the city where business takes me.

I will always find damaged roundabouts, bent streetlights, seriously injured or broken trees amongst other damage.

The incidence of such damage tends to be higher at weekends and at month ends.

Reasons are many and varied but that is the reality.

This statistic is not peculiar to Nairobi.

One finds the same on Digo Road and Kenyatta and Moi Avenues in Mombasa.

One will also find similar damage and frequencies in streets named Moi and Kenyatta in most of the major towns in Kenya.

We must have ran out of imagination and named all major streets in the provincial and county headquarters after the two first presidents of our country.

We also have a smattering of roads named after certain local heroes such as Oginga Odinga in the Nyanza Region and Dedan Kimathi in Central Kenya.

All these major roads are littered with damage caused by vehicles colliding either with themselves or with the road architecture.

In some instances, one also finds evidence of roadkill – dead dogs, cats, cattle and other animals.

In Kigali, I did not see any evidence of accidents in the three days that I spent in the city and its environs.

I spent hours when being driven around looking for obvious signs of any altercations between vehicles and anything adjacent to or on the roads and I could find nothing of the sort I was liking for.

On the third day I thought it fit to ask my host why there was no sign of accident damage on trees, lamp posts, road kerbs, telephone and electricity poles, flower beds, roundabouts and so forth.

Without a pause for thought, he told me that the first reality is that they have very few accidents in the city and in the country because of the discipline of the road users.

And indeed, I saw evidence of that watching all the road users.

Each user kept to their allocated space on the road.

This included the boda boda riders, pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle operators.

Where there were specific road demarcations for the different forms of traffic, they would stick to the allocated areas.

Where there was no specific demarcation on the roads, there was sufficient discipline in following the common sense that is the Highway Code – even though they drive on the “wrong” side of the road.

Cyclists and motor cyclists would generally ride close to the kerb on the edge of the road thus allowing overtaking by other motorised traffic.

In Kenya, they keep to the centre of the road and thus antagonise drivers who the either bully them or make dangerous manoeuvres in the limited space available.

Pedestrians kept well away from the road and only came close to the kerbs when they intended to cross the road.

Where there were properly marked crossings, they would congregate there.

When no marked crossings were available, people were making responsible crossings by choosing a position on the road where vehicles were likely to be travelling at their lowest speed and also where the pedestrian could see a sufficient distance to make safe crossing easier.

Drivers were also contributing by driving carefully and being courteous to other road users.

They were observing the priorities at roundabouts where there were traditional markings on the road. Common courtesy requires that vehicles already on the roundabout be given right of way.

In our case in Kenya, it means that we give way to vehicles which are approaching us from the right.

It also means that if the exit that you wish to take from any position on the road is occupied at a junction then one does not enter the junction till the intended exit from the junction has space.

It also means that in such a circumstance the first person who arrived at the junction waiting to go to the same exit should be allowed by other drivers to go first.

Because there is serious discipline on the roads, the accident rate in Rwanda is low.

This is not by accident (sic).

This discipline is as a result of a programme that started by a report in 1996 that showed Rwanda was near the bottom on the global road safety scale.

At that time, according to the World Health Organisation, there was one accident every two and a half hours in which there was an injury – and most were in the capital city.

The government commenced on a serious new, road safety programme that started with a revision of the laws on road conduct.

It started with a wide consultation across all user populations and affected persons.

Once the laws were ready, they were followed by a very robust public aware-ness campaign. The campaign continued for several years.

The key require-ments that formed the heart of the campaign was that it was made mandatory to wear seat belts.

Speed limits were introduced, vehicles inspection to ensure roadworthiness of vehicle and limits on blood alcohol concentrations were part of the enactment.

There were also laws requiring the wearing of safety equipment including seatbelts for cars and helmets for riders.

Enforcement was initially a challenge because of the then corrupt police force.

The government, their employer adopted a no-nonsense approach and any officer found taking bribes was immediately sacked (part of the revision of the laws allowed their employer to take this action).

Some one hundred plus officers were sacked and discipline in the forces followed immediately.

The police changed their ways of working and enforcement of compliance became the norm rather than the exception.

The good thing is that in Kenya we have all the legislation that is required to make driving safer and also make disciplined behaviour part of the DNA of the country.

Our only problem as a country is enforcement.

Instead of sacking police officers who are caught taking bribes immediately, they are deployed to hardship areas as part of the punishment.

Wherever they are sent there will be some form of transportation so that they will simply continue what they were used to even when the returns are less.

They will angle and bribe their way back to the lucrative routes.

Rwanda used its “Umuganda” to transform eth nation and create a disciplined cadre of road users.

We must emulate this smaller neighbour if we hope to achieve an East African Community that has discipline and integrity at the heart of what we are.

As Kachumbari says, a disciplined nation will go a long way.

.

SEE ALSO:
 

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