There must be deliberate efforts to make our roads safer

Rwandanall over the world entered the weekend mood with some worthy news to celebrate. The moment news came in that the country’s amiable Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo had been unanimously declared as the new Secretary General of La Francophonie, the various social media platforms lit up with congratulatory messages.

In a short while her name was trending and it was quite obvious that many used the time to dust off their French prowess where possible.

Her victory came as a deserving gift to Rwandans who were just getting into the weekend mood and served as a valid reason for many to celebrate and raise their glasses to toast to this great achievement.

For months, Mushikiwabo had been on the campaign trail, going to different countries as she sought the trust of members of the 84-nation bloc that has been led by a Canadian national, Michaëlle Jean since 2014.

Mushikiwabo’s victory was announced at the 17th Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) summit in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The fact that Mushikiwabo had unanimous backing of the African Union gave her bid a strong boost and showed the kind of unity that Africa needs during such moments.

As an organisation, La Francophonie was set up in 1970 with the aim of promoting the French language, peace and sustainable development.

The language bit was indeed on display the moment Mushikiwabo was announced victorious with many tweeting in French while others were asking for help on where they can take French classes from. As someone who took French classes some years back, I wish all the intending learners the best of luck. To you Madam Louise Mushikiwabo, congratulations and we look forward to your good leadership of this bloc.

While Rwandans were in a jubilant mode, the rest of East Africa seemed to be dealing with a series of tough moments that made my general East African online experience a mixed one. For example in Tanzania, it emerged that the country’s youngest and arguably wealthiest billionaire, Mohammed Dewji had been kidnapped by unknown gunmen while going to the gym in Dar es Salaam.

By the time of writing this, the tycoon was still missing as the Tanzanian police was doing the most to try and find and rescue him. I hope that this unfortunate development ends well for him and his family. Dewji heads the MeTL business group based in Tanzania.

In Uganda, the people of Bududa district in the eastern part of the country were once again hit by deadly landslides after days of heavy rains that resulted in a river bursting its banks. More than 40 people have so far been found dead while efforts to find other missing people continue. The area is found on the slopes of Mount Elgon and is a high risk area for landslides due to the heavy rains and the environmental degradation. In 2010 more than 100 lives were lost in a landslide in the same place and in 2012 landslides again destroyed villages in the area.

Further to the east, in a place called Fort Ternan in Kericho, Kenya, a bus rolled off the road after losing control and over 55 lives were lost, leaving the country in a sombre and soul searching mood. About 16 people are said to have survived the crash which is proof that the 67-seater bus was clearly overloaded before this unfortunate incident happened. The bus is said to have been in poor mechanical condition and was speeding at the time of the accident.

Such road accidents always worry me because many East Africans rely on such buses to travel from one town to another and also from one country to another. However in many such cases, it is only after an accident that you will hear of how the bus was not licensed or following traffic rules. Severe measures are announced and soon or later they are forgotten until another road disaster happens.

As East Africans we must put in place deliberate measures to make our roads safer. Roads should be connecting us not ending us. More scrutiny of passenger service vehicles doing long distances should be in place to ensure that accidents are minimised.

Redesigning areas that are considered black spots on the road, marking roads clearly and ensuring that we have better quality buses on our roads could be some of the ways we can make our roads safer. It has indeed been a tough week with all this loss of life in Uganda and Kenya. We must do better.

Email: ssenyonga@gmail.com

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com

Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.