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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Drivers were also
contributing by driving carefully and being courteous to other
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
This is not by
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
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.
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
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
There were also laws
requiring the wearing of safety equipment including seatbelts
for cars and helmets for riders.
initially a challenge because of the then corrupt police force.
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
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
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
As Kachumbari says,
a disciplined nation will go a long way.
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