Driving on Ugandan roads can prove to be quite the hustle and it is not for the fainthearted. Having gone to a local driving school with a senior citizen as my instructor, I was fortunate to be thrown into the deep end right from the get go and was taken on to Jinja road right on day one. So you would be right to say that I am quite comfortable on Ugandan roads and no conductor, truck driver or trailer will ever bully me on the road.
However, one group of people we often forget to take into account are our angelic custodians of the law dressed in white. I was fortunate to be charged with the task of dropping my nieces and nephews to and from school for a period of a week while my sister was away and I grew accustomed to using the road less travelled from Kamwokya market to where it connects to Bukoto stage near Bemuga near Kabira country club.
On the first occasion as I drove down the hill into the valley riddled with garages and washing bays, at about the midway point I was pulled over by a female police officer.
I indicated and exited the main road to the side and once I had parked I let down the co drivers’ window. The children were at the back and jolted out of their seats wondering why we had come to a halt far off from the super market where we usually got their snacks.
Niece: ‘Why are we stopping?’
Me: ‘Because the police woman has asked us to stop.’
Niece: ‘But where is she I cannot see her?’
Me: ‘Sit up and look ahead there, do you see her?’
Niece: ‘Uh hmm.’
As she approached me boy was I happy that I had sorted out my driving permit woes a couple of months earlier and now I was fully covered.
Police officer: ‘How are you madam?’
Me: ‘Fine thank you officer.’
Police officer: ‘Are we okay?’
Me: ‘Yes we are.’
She walked to the front of the car to check and make sure that my third party insurance was not expired and walked back to my side of the window.
Police officer: ‘Okay, can I see your driving permit?’ she said in a firm tone with a straight face almost in a bid to intimidate me.
Me: ‘No problem, officer,’ I said as I reached into my hand bag and handed her my permit to look at.
For about half a minute she mauled over it back and front and as she examined the details her
face changed from the stern look to a more pleasant and almost cheeky smile.
Police officer: ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ she said as I looked at her beaming face with a feeling gratification for that brief moment of doubt she had was no more than prejudice.
Me: ‘Thank you officer.’
This routine occurred a day after the same and was pretty typical and I was beginning to look forward to it. Unfortunately for me I did not see the officer for a day but then when I was beginning to think that she had been moved to a new location, there she was moving in my direction with her hand up. This time the children had a fun filled day of school and activities so they had all passed out in the back seat.
Police officer: ‘Alloh how are you madam?’
Me: ‘Fine thank you.’
Police officer: ‘Eh mama, can I please have a look at your permit?’
Me: ‘Yes, officer I said as I smiled brightly.’
I was tempted to let this whole process go on as usual but when I was pulling out my driving permit I asked I decided to quiz her as to why she constantly pulled me over the entire week.
Me: ‘But officer, I said politely’
Police officer: ‘Yes, what is it. You do not have your permit.’
Me: ‘No I have it.’
Police officer: ‘So what is it, soo....’
Me: ‘Officer, I only wanted to know why you would pull me over 3 times in the same week.’
Police officer: ‘Ehhhh is it so, ehhh ..’
As she was pausing attempting to recollect her failing memory I decided to assist her expedite the process.
Me: ‘Officer, you do not remember me passing here with these children this week.’
She paused for a second and then leaned forward and peered through the glass of the rear window for confirmation before bursting into a smile.
Police officer: ‘Ehh mama it is you sorry.’
Me: ‘But officer why do you stop me every time.’
Police officer: ‘Nanti you look like you are small.’
Me: ‘Smalll...’ I said with a confused look on my face.
Police officer: ‘Yes, too small to drive.’
Me: ‘Small .... ehhh, ohhhh too young to drive.’
Police officer: ‘Yes madam, but now it is okay, you take the children are very tired ehhh you take them home safely.’
Me: ‘Thank you officer,’ i said in response as i placed my permit back into my wallet.
As I indicated and pulled back onto the main road I thought to myself, it so difficult to get a rapid response from police at a crime scene but when it comes to the traffic police I am being pulled over for looking too young to be driving. Isn’t this a case of misplaced vigilance and resources Uganda police?