Reports about some neighbouring countries’ roads and traffic handling make for depressing news. Where some years ago these countries’ road systems were the yardstick for smooth road travel, today they have become highways to hell.
What used to be tarmacked roads have been chiselled into what appear as strips and dots of tar, floating on rainy-season lakes or towering over dry-season gullies. Attempting to navigate them is said to be a death wish.
Where there is a proliferation of motorised transport, some four-wheeled and many more two-wheeled, this calls for strict management if life is to be protected. But if it’s every motorist, motorcyclist, cyclist and pedestrian for themselves, then it’s a recipe for disaster.
And if it’s true that the traffic police supposed to organise this haphazard road use are more concerned with pulling a fast one in favour of their own potbellies, then where is the government in all this? If a fish starts to rot from the head, what does it mean if not that the buck should stop with the top government management?
The safety of a country’s people on roads (as everywhere) should be paramount. It’s not enough to dazzle with some showy highways accessible to only a few. The cost of these ‘exhibition’ highways should be distributed around to provide peace of mind to all road users.
Every road, walkway, green space, and anything near a road, should neither be turned into a battlefield for drivers/riders nor a venue for the survival of the fittest person in the vicinity.
Should the neighbourhood’s safety concern Rwanda? Every life on earth touches the cord of Rwandans’ hearts because of what they’ve been through. That’s what animates the soul of this land. Examples are legion and the cases of Libya, Afghanistan, and others, immediately come to mind. Plus, that of the UK when the tussle is over!
As for roads, Rwandans have so taken some things for granted that when someone mentions potholes, they throw their heads back and laugh them (their heads!) off. Take the KN 3 Avenue that leads from the main Kigali City roundabout to Serena Hotel and on to Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.
Can you, in your wildest imagination, associate KN 3 with potholes?
Interestingly, you may not notice its beauty. The side walkway that caters for all willing to enjoy it, be they with fit bodies, with a disability or otherwise, may win over your fancy, forcing you to park your ‘limousine’ wherever you may find a parking bay and walk.
If so, be warned! You might perchance espy an even better, wider and greener walkway to your right that’ll blow your mind away.
Just below KN3 Avenue, you can have your uninterrupted green and leisurely car-free walk on Imbuga City Walk and, when tired, sit on a comfy bench, surfing the internet on free Wi-Fi. Moreover, this will be as you order, from kiosks or restaurants around, whatever drinks or eats may flatter your palate.
When you happen to look up, take heart. Those huge raindrops are not part of the authors of the floods and landslides that have been wrecking regions of our country. They are for lighting your way!
Otherwise, for walkways, you may marvel at the KG 17 Avenue in front of Amahoro Stadium, Remera, just as you may in suburban Rusororo, just below the Intare Conference Centre.
But lest we sound as if these pothole-less roads are confined to Kigali City, travel the road networks that radiate from there to the different border points of Rwanda and check them out. Provincial and other satellite cities are also adorned with eye-catching, spacious sidewalks.
So, Rwanda which was ‘chained’ all around by impassable pathways for ‘roads’ only the other day, 1994, how has she overcome a problem that has ‘strangled’ other countries? These are countries that were handed beautiful highways on a silver platter by colonialism, you know.
A disclaimer, though: Rwandan roads are not all tarmacked. There are still many marram roads (well-maintained) but you can be sure that tarmac is hot on their heels. What’s important is that they are all reasonably thumbs up, when it comes to road safety. That’s how government comes in: enforcing road discipline.
Which shouldn’t be an impossible task for our neighbouring countries. Mobilise all the concerned parties on the importance of maintaining the sanctity of life and enforce and penalise any disrespect for it and you have as good as licked the problem.
Keep your traffic police disciplined and sanction any indiscipline heavily. Equip them with the necessary technology to easily punish unruly drivers/riders and other road users. Line up the roads with “Sophias”, Rwanda’s uncompromising speed cameras that catch you at more than speeding: using wrong lanes, trampling grass lane medians and more. For drunk driving, there are breathalysers and sundry other measures against other transgressions to enforce order.
Neighbours, this country’s people yearn to visit. So, push your governments into rendering roads safe!
On a different note, Rwanda remembers how Mother Nature has dealt her an unfair hand, despite her being a strong partner in climate protection. We mourn victims of floods and landslides.