Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Memories of the Nakapiripirit road

November 19 started on a brighter note as my colleagues and I embarked on  an 8-hour drive to Nakapiripirit district, in north-eastern Uganda for an assignment. Driving through the paved road from Kampala to the junction that goes to Kapchorwa was an awesome experience. But, this excitement was short-lived as the car wheels stepped on a loose 130km road stretch that leads to Moroto via Nakapiripirit. To say this road is bumpy is understatement.

As our car waggled through the potholes our hearts nearly jumped out of our bodies. But, this was a tip of the trouble that lay ahead of us. It took us two hours to drive a distance of 30 kilometres on this rough road. It seemed we weren't paying attention to what the road was already telling us that: it’s impassable! Mission impossible.

Indeed, we did not drive farther before we got stuck. We got out of the car and began pushing. That was the beginning of endless car pushing episodes. When we got out of the muddy section of road; we could only drive for less than 10 minutes and got stuck again. This time the car could not move forward or backward; we were real stuck. It was getting dark.

Community members helping out push our car out of the muddy road to Nakapiriprit.

We spent the night at that spot and waited for the sun, then retreated. That's one of our upcountry dilemmas. The roads there can really be nastily impassable. On that day, even 4-wheel drive cars could not make it. It had just rained. People living on this road say it's a normal occurrence. They have come to terms with it!

Once stuck you could not move forward or backward. It was a nightmare. I've been on worse roads but this was the worst.

While many of us bemoan the countless potholes we hit while driving on some roads in Kampala, at least we are sure we will reach our destination without ever requiring the services of a towing vehicle. But, on the road to Nakapiripirit the traveller’s prayer is that you reach your destination no matter how many times you are towed after every time you get stuck.

When our car got stuck I could not stop wondering at the kind of leaders that hail from this area –leaders who cannot afford at least a passable road network for their populace. A local council leader gave me an amusing answer; “they are sipping beer in Kampala and come here by choppers when it is election time.”

When we got stuck for the fifth time and being pulled by another van the question on my mind was whether leaders from this often use the same road or they fly. But, I didn't get clear answers;
Do they even come here? Exactly that was a common answer. I heard they come to this area during dry spells. During rainy periods they just stay put and sip booze in posh Kampala bars instead of lobbying for better a road network.
Another LC leader told me the impassable road has made the supply of essential goods like salt difficult because traders can't easily move

So who will fix these Kapchorwa-Nakapiripirit roads? The road seems not to rank high on the Ministry of Works and Transport priority list. Instead, the ministry has opted to first fix a stretch on the Nakapiripirit Moroto road. Yet, money spent on punishing Kampala Lord Mayor Lukwago alone could cause a significant change in that Kapchorwa-Nakapiripirit road! That would be money well spent. It seems priorities in this land are upside down.

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