UNMISS, partners bolster government efforts to minimize road accidents in Juba and beyond
CENTRAL EQUATORIA – Road safety is often neglected across South Sudan, despite severe risks posed by drivers and motorists to themselves as well as pedestrians.
Every year, this young nation has thousands of fatalities and casualties arising from a failure to adhere to traffic rules and regulations, be it over speeding coupled with reckless driving; driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; and poor road conditions, among others.
“In Juba today, it is common to see a person on the phone calling a loved one or sending and receiving text messages on Facebook or Instagram while driving a car or riding a bike. This is extremely dangerous and we’d like to remind people that being distracted while on the road could lead to a lot of harm to themselves and others, said Victor Fasama, Acting Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Central Equatoria Field Office.
Mr Fasama was speaking at a recent event launching the annual Road Safety Week, which is marked in November every year. The forum took place at Keren Hotel in Juba under the theme: “Road Safety Begins with Me,” and was attended by some 200 participants, including high-level dignitaries and traffic police.
“It takes a minute to be involved in an accident; yet it is costly both financially and personally to recover from injuries,” said Godwill Waya, Minister of Cabinet Affairs who also doubles as the Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement, Central Equatoria state.
“You must exercise the highest standard of professionalism and observe the traffic police’s code of conduct. Arrest any culprit who commits a traffic offence to act as a deterrent for other offenders whilst ensuring justice for victims,” he added.
For her part, Flora Gabriel, Mayor of Juba city, elucidated ways forward to improve road safety and security standards in South Sudan’s capital.
“We must work together to minimize the many accidents happening in our city and save lives. For this, traffic lights should be installed, major streets must be paved to decongest roads, road signs and symbols set up, and law and order enforced,” stated the Mayor.
Swiss Red Cross Country Director, Hanna Korte, agreed.
“Putting on helmets is a primary requirement for a boda boda [motorbike taxi] driver as is seatbelt for a taxi driver because they have saved lives for ages,” she said.
Traffic Police Director for Central Equatoria, Major General Zacharia Michale Taban, had some advice for stakeholders as well.
“We must reach out to all taxi drivers, boda boda and tuk tuk drivers, as well as pedestrians with well-tailored road safety advocacy messages to reduce accidents and save lives,” he suggested.
United Nations Police (UNPOL) officers serving with UNMISS have helped train hundreds of South Sudan’s traffic police on much-needed skillsets to better respond to incidents, control riotous crowds, and minimize traffic offences.
The UN Peacekeeping mission’s Community Outreach Unit distributed 150 helmets and 50 t-shirts as part of its partnership for Road Safety Week with the state government and Swiss Red Cross.