The leader reportedly issued an order to traffic police to stop clearing the way for his vehicles in Kampala so that other road users are not inconvenienced.
Police has continued to defy an order by President Yoweri Museveni to stop clearing the way for his convoy while he is moving within Kampala, URN has learnt.
The president, in February reportedly issued an order to Traffic Police to stop clearing the way for his vehicles in Kampala so that other road users are not inconvenienced. However, police only allowed the president to be stranded in traffic once and after about 30 minutes of confusion between the motorists, cyclists and the presidential security detail, a decision was reached not to follow the order anymore.
A highly-placed source within the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety told URN that the force is officially not supposed to open way for the president while he is moving within Kampala and Entebbe.
“Officially we are not supposed to the open way but we still do it for his safety and that is why he has been warning us against disobeying his orders,” the source who preferred anonymity said.
URN also learned that on May 21, 2017 the president called the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura inquiring on why his orders are not being followed.
When contacted, the Police Traffic and Road Safety spokesperson, Charles Ssembabulidde, declined to comment on the matter.
URN has observed that unlike in the past where divisional police commanders and the in-charge traffic were responsible for clearing the way for the president and would stand on the roadside and salute the president’s convoy, the commanders use the walkie-talkies to communicate with their juniors who, after clearing the road, move away.
Major Chris Magezi, the spokesperson of the Special Force Command, the elite force in charge of the president’s security, however, said all he knows is that the law provides the president with a right of way. Magezi, however, did not elaborate further.
It is not clear why the president, who has enjoyed this kind of treatment on the road for the better part of his 31-year-rule, has suddenly changed his mind.
Early this month, while shopping for clothes and shoes in Wandegeya market, police blocked all access roads to Wandegeya – causing a heavy traffic holdup that lasted for more than four hours.
For the first four years of his reign, Museveni moved with a handful of escorts in a convoy of not more than five vehicles. But the convoy and security detail has grown steadily the longer he has stayed in power.
In June last year, the police revealed that it was in the process of revisiting traffic rules and guidelines to come up with more specifics on who is entitled to the right of way. Kayihura, then that government ministries, departments and agencies were the biggest abusers of the practice.
Section 123 of Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998 gives the right of way to emergency vehicles. Emergency motor vehicle means “a motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant for the purpose of the police, ambulances, motor vehicles of armed forces and such other vehicles that may be designated by the minister by a statutory order”.
Under this provision, in 2004, the then minister of Works and Transport, John Nasasira, designated a number of motor vehicles to have the right of way as emergency motor vehicles under regulation 5(2) of Traffic and Road Safety Regulations, 2004.
The president’s convoy is one of those vehicles categorised under emergency vehicles. Worldwide, presidential convoys are given right of way and in some countries it is considered a crime to keep on the road and block the president’s convoy.
In April 2017, Zambian police arrested the leader of opposition Hakainde Hichilema on charges of “treason” after he allegedly blocked President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade with his own convoy of vehicles during a traditional ceremony in the western part of the country.
Zambia Police claims that Hichilema’s motorcade did not give way even after presidential security guards signaled for it to get out of the way.