Let me start with a disclaimer: I am not an engineer, physical planner or anything like that. The views shared in the lines to follow are totally based on my daily observations as an ordinary Kampala City dweller and road user.
If you keenly looked at the state of many parts of Kampala today (from Kampala Central, Makindye, Kawempe, Rubaga to Nakawa), you may easily mistake the city for a construction site due to the messy ongoing road construction works.
Littered debris, open drainage channels, and misplaced construction materials, are the order of the day in many site locations – in total disregard to the inconveniences caused to motorists and other road users.
But before I go any further, I would like to categorically state that I am not against these construction works and like anybody else, I want to see Kampala with a better transport network as this holds the key for traffic improvement and decongestion within the city.
My concern, however, is on the process, both in design and execution of most of these road construction works. I believe that the contractors and the relevant supervising authorities can do a better job while achieving the same desired objectives.
I recently drove along Acacia (John Babiiha) Road but because of the heavy traffic caused by partial road closures and ongoing construction works, it took me almost two hours to move from the Fairway Hotel junction to City Oil Petrol Station at Kira Road. This drive could normally take about 20 or less minutes.
Sudden and temporary road closures without any prior public notice have become the norm these days. Motorists are often forced to use detours or feeder roads that are usually unpaved, narrow, full of blind corners and with hidden entrances.
With all that being said, I think the Kampala Northern By-Pass deserves a special mention. When the road expansion project was commissioned by the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) in 2014, it was anticipated to be completed within 2 years; but six years later, there is no clear indication of project completion in sight.
UNRA has often attributed the extended delays to land acquisition problems and improvements in the project designs.
But other concerns regarding inadequate equipment and incompetent personnel, have also been routinely raised.
Whereas I appreciate that construction of urban roads by nature may not take the same pace as rural ones, the speed at which some of these road constructions take leaves a lot to be desired.
Amusingly, the extended delays have also been observed for road construction projects much smaller in size than those like the Kampala Northern By-Pass.
For instance, construction works on Kabusu-Bunamwaya-Lweza Road (eight kilometres), Lukuli Road (7.7 kilometers), Acacia Road (1.5 kilometres) and Nakawa-Ntinda road (2.8 kilometres), started in May 2019 but all remain incomplete as of November 2020.
This is a humble call to action for all those involved. And perhaps not surprisingly, a good number of the prevailing flaws are nothing but mistakes and thus, many of the required actions are quite obvious.
We do not need heroic innovations but, in my opinion, with a little more input in planning, design and execution, better and positive results could be recorded.
Mr Brian Mukalazi is the country director of Every Child Ministries, Uganda.