TRIAD Unit at MakSPH under the sponsorship of CEBHA+ project held a 2-day National symposium under the theme “Safe and Inclusive Public Transport in Uganda” from the 4th to 5th August 2022 at Hotel Africana.
In Uganda, public transport is a largely unregulated and mainly dominated by the private sector. This informal public transport is mainly in the form 14-seater commuter taxis, boda bodas and buses. Such transport modes have a number of challenges with the most common one being the high number of road traffic crashes and deaths. Majority of the road traffic injuries in Uganda mainly involve the informal public transport modes. Within Kampala, users and operators of boda bodas constitute more than 50% of the road traffic crash victims. Buses too have been implicated in road traffic crashes recently on many Uganda roads. It is against this background that the symposium was organized.
Invited were representatives from Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA), Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT), journalist from all media houses, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), CEBHA+ team Uganda, National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, Equal Opportunities Commission Uganda, National Physical Planning Board (NPPB) and boda boda, taxi and bus drivers.
Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean, MakSPH, in her welcoming remarks mentioned that road traffic safety is a significant public health issue citing that the MakSPH was committed to creating evidence through research with support decision making with a view of improving road safety.
“Do we actually have a public transport system in Uganda that we can speak of confidently that is equitable and inclusive? That we can afford and feel safe in. One we know we can get home alive. Do we actually have that or it is something we need to think about in this symposium in terms of how we can get this done, prioritizing all road users” said Prof. Wanyenze.
Prof. Wanyenze when giving welcoming remarks.
The guest speaker was Prof. Winnie Mitullah from the University of Nairobi who gave a keynote address on “inclusive, safe, green public transport: the nexus of two wheelers and mass transit”
There was a panel discussion which discussed the state of public transport in Uganda. The panelist included Mr. Reagan Namanya, Principal Rail Transport Officer at MoWT; Ms. Josephine Apajo from Equal Opportunities Commission; and Eng. Irene Namuyiga, Road Safety Officer at KCCA.
More needs to be done in regards to including women in the transport sector. “How would you react if your next boda boda rider, taxi driver or pilot is a woman?” asked Ms. Apajo.
MoWT is working on improving the railway transport and extending it to places outside Kampala Metropolitan area. “The carries more passengers compared to taxis and buses hence decongesting the road” said Mr. Namanya.
KCCA has designated some road lanes for bicycle and walking in an effort to encourage the use of bicycles and walking in Kampala. Eng, Namuyiga encouraged everyone to walk more. “In an effort to make Kampala a smart city, road side vendors and road reserve encroachers have been chased off the road side and reserves” said Eng. Namuyiga.
During panel discussion (L-R) Ms. Josephine Apajo, Mr. Reagan Namanya, Eng. Irene Namuyiga.
The climax of day-2 of the symposium were the Road Safety Media Awards were 10 local journalists from electronic, print and web media who had shared their articles were awarded for their incredible work on reporting impactful, informative and inspiring stories about road safety. The awards recognized media’s contribution in raising mass awareness on road safety issues in Uganda. This initiative followed the Road Safety Journalist Training that took place in May 2021 where journalists were challenged to go and report basing on learned principles.
The awardees included Mr. Musoke Ronald, a reporter at Uganda’s Independent Magazine who was the overall best journalist, Ms. Nakabugo Zurah, an Investigative Journalist at the Observer, who was the second winner; and Ms. Makula Esther, a reporter with online news channel Chimp Reporst, as the third runners up. The three received a certificate award and a cash prize.
Mr. Musoke (left) and Ms. Nakabugo (right) receiving their certificates and cash prize from Dr. Kobusingye Olive, head of TRIAD Unit, MakSPH.
Other journalists who participated received certificates in recognition of their exceptional work relaying information on road safety issues around the country are; Joseph Kato (Uganda Radio Network), Malik Fahad (Daily Monitor), Henry Mugenyi (NBS TV), Roland Nasasira (Daily Monitor), Mubarak Ssebuufu (CBS), Namale Hajara Shahista, Health reporter (CBS FM 89.2 Kampala), and Ms. Sarah Mawerere (UBC).
Dr. Olive Kobusingye, an Accident & Emergency surgeon and injury epidemiologist and the head, TRIAD Unit at MakSPH noted that media is a very powerful partner in road safety issues citing that we cannot hope to improve road safety, improve public transport unless we have adequate sensitization, unless we have good information and data appropriately shared. She urged journalists and media practitioners to always do in-depth stories with longer value in order to help the public appreciate the various issues surrounding road safety issues.
Dr. Kobusingye also urged the various road safety stakeholders to always support the work of journalists by offering information and granting interviews. “I think you have seen improvements in reporting. In fact, the negative reporting that we see currently is done by non-journalists. We all have become journalists because we have smart phones. We therefore expect that the journalists that participated and are acknowledged are not just responsible reporters but also are ethical” said Dr. Kobusingye.