Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Access to the Namugongo Catholic martyrs’ shrines has become difficult for drivers and motorcyclists due to the closure of roads by the military and police. The closures were implemented even before the scheduled traffic plan was set to take effect on June 2.
The aim was to ensure smooth access for pilgrims to the Catholic and Anglican venues without vehicle interference. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rogers Nsereko Kauma announced the closure of certain roads starting from midnight on June 2. The Kireka-Namugongo road was designated as one-way, Kyaliwajjala-Naalya was for vehicles leaving Namugongo, and Kyaliwajjala-Namugongo was reserved for foot pilgrims and emergency vehicles.
However, the military and police closed several roads in Namugongo even before the designated time, leading to traffic gridlock. Roads such as Namugongo-Kyaliwajjala, Kyaliwajjala Semambo, Mbalwa-Namugongo, and Namugongo-Jjanda were inaccessible. Residents expressed frustration, questioning why roads were closed days before the actual Martyrs’ Day.
“Why would roads be closed on Wednesday when Martyrs’ Day is on Saturday? Are we going to suffer for all these three days? We always leave our cars at home only on the D day but I can’t even take it back,” a woman said.
As a result, Namugongo motorists had to use muddy and potholed alternative routes, causing traffic congestion not only on those routes but also on major roads such as Kyaliwajjala, Northern Bypass-Bweyogerere, Namugongo-Butto-Bweyogerere, Namugongo-Kireka, Kireka-Kamuli, and Seeta-Misindye-Namugongo.
Vehicles moved slowly, and some got stuck in the muddy access routes. Even motorcycle taxi riders (boda-bodas) faced similar challenges. Security officials, including Minister of State for Internal Affairs Gen David Muhoozi and Deputy Inspector General of Police Maj Gen Geoffrey Katsigazi Tumusiime, assessed the security situation by visiting the venues.
Pilgrims were required to taste their boiled food and water before entering, and individuals carrying sharp objects or metallic items like knives and razor blades were denied access. SSP Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, said even those with cosmetics and creams will have to first smear their bodies to prove its Vaseline and no other dangerous staff.