MBALE– Nakaloke Town Council in Mbale District was on Wednesday evening the scene of violent protests after a Soroti- bound taxi knocked dead the area chairperson on the Mbale- Soroti highway.
Armed with stones and logs, the angry residents blocked the highway with heaps of sand as they burnt tyres, saying they were tired of losing lives on the road.
In less than 30 minutes, vehicles had piled up on the road, creating a traffic gridlock.
The residents, who kept singing anti-government slogans, said for long, they have urged the Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) to erect humps on the road in vain.
“People are dying like cockroaches along this road due to accidents. At least every week, one person or more must die in this area but the concerned officials are not occasioned,” said Yusuf Kadama, the area youth chairperson. “This is a busy road and it being used by school going children. Many have died and we have got tired of mourning,” he added.
The traffic gridlock attracted the attention of police led by the District Police Commander, Mr Mathias Turyasingura, who attempted to speak to the residents but without success.
The police then resorted to firing teargas, forcing residents to disperse.
The police officers then removed the barricades and traffic started flowing smoothly.
Mr Turyasingura said whereas the locals were right to protest, they did not have to block the road.
“We are also going to engage the concerned officials to have humps erected on the road to avoid accidents, which are rampant in this area,” he said.
Ugandan is among the top ranking countries in road traffic accidents along with South Africa, Nigeria, Iran, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic at 31.9, 33.7, 34.1, 38.1, and 41.7 per 100,000 population, respectively. At the same time, the Journal reports that traffic injuries are among the top 10 causes of mortality.
It is estimated that accidents cost Shs 4.4 trillion ($1.2 billion) in lost productivity and medical expenses annually, representing five percent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product. Latest recorded road crash fatalities stand at 3,503, up from an average of 3,000 a few years ago. This is an 8.7 percent increase. Such high numbers fly in the face of the national road safety policy of reducing fatalities to 1,400 by 2017.