Traffic police officers, the people we all love to hate

If there is one person we all love to hate it is Mr. Traffic Police Officer! To most road users, a traffic police officer is worse than a landlord and a loan shark rolled together.
A traffic police officer monitoring traffic on a Kigali street.
A traffic police officer monitoring traffic on a Kigali street.

If there is one person we all love to hate it is Mr. Traffic Police Officer! To most road users, a traffic police officer is worse than a landlord and a loan shark rolled together.

Traffic officers are hated for being suckers to the traffic regulations we all break regularly. We have been pulled over for over speeding, failing to come to a total stand-still at a stop sign or breaking what we feel are minor issues.

We also hate the fact that they have the power to pull you over and give you a ticket for not doing something correctly. Though we do not admit it openly, we strongly hate the fact that however ‘big or important’ we are, we can’t boss them around or be ‘above’ the situation! The mere knowledge that someone else is above us and there is nothing we can do about it but obey bothers us so much that we turn that it into abhorrence.

I know a guy who harbours a deep hatred for one particular chap, an unforgiving motorcycle traffic cop who likes to ‘hide ’ along one particular road  and always ‘catches’ people bending the rules. He personally has gotten into trouble with this same man, no matter how hard he tries to respect the regulations.

Before you burn all your calories on hating, the question is, have you ever thought about how this country would be without them? How many lives would perish if they took one week off?  Do we have an idea what they go through to ensure that we reach home safely and that our kids make it to school and back in one piece? No! We selfishly criticize and overlook the importance of these selfless guys.

I am no different. When I was assigned to write a piece about how a traffic officer spends the day at work, I already knew what to write! I was armed with words like, heartless, controlling, inconsiderate interventionist and other descriptive venoumous words.

I spent day one at Gishushu intersection with a senior traffic officer, I had told him about my assignment, and he proposed I start my task at Gishushu intersection. I reached there before him, but minutes later we linked up and, the jolly humble gentleman answered my every question and even took his time to educate me more on his line of duty and why they do the things they do. Like how they can stop a commuter taxi or bus from making a stop at a bus-stop or divert you to take another route like you do not know where you are heading.

“It’s true some people resent traffic officers, but  we  don’t let that bother us, we perceive them as kids  who don’t want to  be injected  when they are  sick not knowing that it’s more beneficial to them than the doctor administering  it. What people tend to forget is that we only enforce the law, we do not make it.  We also make lots of enemies when we don’t believe the little excuses they try to feed us in order to get out of a ticket,” the officer divulged.

Just like the devil took Jesus to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their entire splendor, the officer took me up the road going to the parliamentary buildings; we stood and watched the traffic flow from a distance like Saint Peter watching planet earth from Heaven’s gate.

The officer pointed out to me every traffic offense taking place, from talking on phone while driving and drivers driving without buckled safety belts to abusing traffic lights and big trucks trying to access the VIP roads during the rush hours.

 I don’t know if the sun is always that scorching hot or it chose to burn that day to punish me for my ancestor’s sins! I coiled like an eel on a drying board. By the time the sun set, my tongue was stuck at the roof of my mouth, my whole body was screaming for an emergency shutdown - and that was day one.

The following day, with bruised feet, I dragged myself to Rwandex-Magerwa junction where I secretly watched the officers on duty, tirelessly working their heads off and the only recognition they seemed to be getting was revolting stares from drivers and other road users.  

From time to time , a traffic police car would drop an officer who would come and brief  or debrief the other and again drive off, like they energise them with soothing words like ‘Vumilia  ndugu, though these people don’t seem to appreciate what we are doing for them, let us keep saving lives here.’ Next, I went to Remera –Giporoso and winded up at Gishushu again where I caught up with another officer who was more than happy to watch the last energy in my body evaporate.

By evening my whole body was threatening to shut down, my legs were hurting and I was practically half asleep! Dark clouds had formed, promising to give birth anytime soon. When I asked the officer where we were to get shade, he simply laughed at me, blowing a whistle to stop a truck load of bricks.

Though I was supposed to leave the post later that night, when I started to stand on one leg cooling off the other, I knew it was time to throw in the towel. My body could not take another minute, by then it had even started drizzling. I bid farewell to my post mate before rigor mortis set in.

After gulping gallons of fumes ,getting roasted  by the sun and  nearly got paralysis  in just two days, my attitude towards these road  lords  and ladies changed and  the  respect I have for them  reached an all time high. I understand them and their profession a lot better now.


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