Our regular columnist Brian Bilal Mwebaze is back in the new year with his regular column. Brian gives a low down on road safety issues facing young people in Africa. From observational commentary, good practise and frustrations. Brian offers a no-holds-barred insight into the world of road safety in Africa.
Hey y’all…we warned you to hold your horses and holding them you did! It’s THAT month where you just resurrected into reality: Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and all the holiday fantasies all over! We’re back into education, taxes and work zones. Speaking of work…
From 15th-20th January 2018, I found myself in Rwanda while on a Regional Disaster Preparedness learning and exchange visit between Uganda Red Cross, Tanzania Red Cross, Burundi Red Cross and Rwanda Red Cross. But this is not really important.
You see, I have visited Rwanda 4 times. 100% of all the visits only ended in Kigali (The capital city). As you drive from the airport to Kigali town, a person infected with a road safety virus can’t miss but to wonder how it’s possible that ALL motorists including their passengers wear helmets. You read THAT well. All of them! This, I intended to find out whether it’s a different story in towns and villages in the outskirts of Kigali!
I had a chance to visit and interact with Rwanda Police in districts of Karongi, and Rubavu to understand how they ensure compliance of helmet utilization and standards. (I have witnessed some village folks in other countries put on helmets carefully curved from water melons…I kid you not).
I was schooled on the governmental structures of Rwanda and their respective duties at local level. While this wasn’t new as I also have seen local officials in other countries chilled delivering on their job descriptions, the police folk subtly said “We’re Rwandans. The Culture here is reinforced by our (leadership) commitment”. Put it quite simply in English that their leaders aim to live by example and everybody is expected to abide by the rules-no exception. I didn’t believe this that much either, because I have heard enough great speeches but less actions.
While in Karongi district, we had a zebra painting session at Lalumiere primary school located in rural Rwanda. The Police Traffic Personnel themselves came in a car and motorcycle. With my eyes, I noticed the police all pull up putting their helmets on. I really wanted to see rural folks including females with theirs.
Much to my expectation, 11 motorists bypassed us, and not only were they (including passengers) putting on helmets but so were the females! What a sight! Finding women putting on helmets in rural Africa (I can say this because I know for sure) is as hard as determining the sex of a young guinea fowl!
You will hear millions of polio-infested excuses from young women for not putting on helmets: From losing their hair, messing up their hair, discomfort etc, but Rwandese girls put them on thanks to government’s commitment to ensure safety of their citizens. Did I say these girls still looked cute with them helmets? Let me end this here. Stay safe