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Buses take over Kampala streets

By Bob Roberts Katende

KCC says plan to keep them out of city was blocked by powerful politicians

When two acres inside the Nakivubo stadium was controversially leased to Allied Bus Owners Association for construction of a bus terminal, many sports lovers saw the deal as detrimental to sports.

The project was also criticised because buses and commuter taxis had been identified as some of the greatest contributors to congestion in the city and the developers were accused of plotting to grab the stadium land and part of a market adjacent to it.

So when the Minister of State for Sports, Mr Charles Bakabulindi intervened to stop the construction of the terminal and a suspected arson fire razed the adjacent Park Yard Market destroying property worth billions of shillings with fingers of pointing at them, the bus terminal developers were expected to abort the move. Instead they vowed to go ahead with their plans in a move that has Kampala residents wondering where they derive such arrogance.

The Allied Bus terminal is the latest in a series of bus terminals that have sprung up since KCC clandestinely sold land previously occupied the only bus terminal in the city then, the Baganda Bus Park, to city businessman, Drake Lubega who promised to use the land to build a shopping mall.

At the time, another tycoon Charles Muhangi who owned some of the buses that operated in the park and was interested in acquiring the land submitted a counter proposal of a shopping mall and a modern bus terminal. He produced a magnificent artistic impression of his terminal. But the City Council was unfazed. It handed the land to Drake who promptly switched plans from mall to a bus park.

Meanwhile, dissatisfied Muhangi opened his own bus terminal on Namirembe Road in the same city area. Since then the number of bus terminals have swollen to over 10 and ensured a perpetual traffic jam in the central business district of the city.

Just five years ago, Kampala City Council launched the Kampala Urban Traffic Improvement Plan designed specifically to block such developments.

Although it involved road repairs and redesign, the centrepiece of the plan was the construction of taxi and bus terminals outside the city centre. The objective was to ease traffic flow.

Under the plan, buses that ply the western route would stop and load passengers at the Natete, those on the eastern route would stop at Bweyogerere and those that go to northern Uganda would stop at Kawempe, all suburbs about 10km from the city.

Even city commuter buses would ferry passengers only up to specially erected stages on the outskirts of the city. Smaller taxis would then pick the passengers and transport them to their respective destinations. All this was part of the grand plan dubbed Greater Kampala.

“People from above sabotaged all our plans to take buses outside the city,” says Mr Simon Muhumuza, the Kampala City Council spokesman, “What did you want us to do without appearing embarrassed?Â

Initially, attempts to control the country’s bus transport sector and the billion shillings in revenue in the same way that the Uganda Taxi Owners and Drivers Association (UTODA) controls the taxi sector was at the heart of the wrangles.

 “We couldn’t go on with wrangles over ownership of the terminal so we decided to find a home of our own,” says Abdullah Byaruhanga, the Operations Officer of Uganda Bus Terminal located behind Nakivubo Stadium, and home to five bus companies; Swift Safaris, Gateway, Perfect Coaches, and Savannah.

Other terminals include: Jaguar Bus Company located along Namirembe road, Scandinavia Bus Terminal along Lumumba Avenue, Akamba and Kampala Modern Bus services along Dewinton road, Kaliita Bus terminal, owned by Patrick Lato, a businessman from Kabarole and his terminal is located in front of Nakivubo stadium.

Most of these terminals are owned by powerful businessmen and politicians. For example Bukanga MP Nathan Byanyima, owns Allied Bus Owners Association.Â

However, many don’t meet the standards and city authorities say they haven’t approved any plans for them.

Gaaga terminal located at Arua Park operates in a small and congested office. Regional Bus Company operates by the road and loads passenger luggage right on the road, cutting off other traffic.

Buses belonging to Teso Coaches, Elgon Flyer, Otada, Link, Gaso, Kibungo, and Ibabu which operate from the Qualicell terminal with each at least five buses each have resorted to loading passengers from right in the middle of the road rendering it impassable to other traffic.

Only Akamba terminal has one of the better designed terminals. It has a waiting area for passengers.

“Space in Kampala has become a problem and the available space cannot accommodate our fleet of buses,” Anwar Andama, the Operations Officer of Regional Bus Services says.

Meanwhile public pressure continues on the city authorities to end the bus terminal menace.

Even President Yoweri Museveni has weighed in. He reportedly told the new Minister of Local government, Adolf Mwesigye, to stop allocating any land in the city for construction of taxi and bus parks.

But sector experts say that without a transport policy to guide their operations, the transport sector operators will continue with their mess.

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