Rwanda and its Burundi neighbour have always been driving on the ‘right’ side of the road while the other three East African member states were accused of driving on the ‘wrong’ site; this, however, is soon going to change.
Rwanda is now in the process of channeling the country’s motorists into the left side of the road and already a number of studies have been launched to aid the proposed traffic transition.
This is according to the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards, Mr Patrice Ntiyamira who is currently in Arusha. Mr Ntiyamira was speaking exclusively to the ‘Daily News on saturday’ during the on-going 17th East African Standards Committee (EASC) meeting taking place here which is being attended by the heads of National Standards Bodies from the five East African Community Member states.
The Rwandan official revealed that the issue of conflicting road and traffic regulations in the five EAC member states was among the topics being discussed in the EASC meeting whose sessions are being held behind closed doors.
Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda drive on the left side of the road having inherited the traffic regulations from their former Anglophonic rulers while the Francophone Rwanda and Burundi maintained their right driving. As a result, motorists operating in the East African Member countries found themselves ‘driving on the wrong sides of the road,’ whenever crossing onto other territories.
While heads of National Bureaus of Standards are in Arusha discussing the harmonisation of quality certification of goods, it has come to light that so far there have been no efforts to harmonise traffic regulations in the East African Community.
Driving on different sides of the road is also proving to be expensive for Rwanda and Burundi the two land-locked countries that depend on Tanzania and Kenya coastline to ship in their vehicles all of which, being destined for East Africa come with the driving wheels fixed on the right.
Once in Rwanda or Burundi, the owners are forced to spend over US $ 500 (700,000/-) to shift the cars’ driving systems from the right to the left in order for the vehicles to blend with the right-side of the road driving.
A few weeks ago, the East African Community’s Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Dr Enos Bukuku said while the EAC is harmonising a number of regulations that currently impede trade, business and free movement of people in the region, the issue of which side of the road should all five countries adopt, hasn’t been decided yet.
“But the five East African Member States will eventually blend automatically,” said Dr Bukuku citing the case of Nigeria and Ghana, countries that were compelled to change from driving on the left to the right in order to merge their traffic regulations with other West and Central African countries,” said Dr Bukuku.
Dr Bukuku’s office apparently, is in charge of planning and infrastructural development in the East African region in which there are on-going projects to build common road and rail networks linking the five member states.
Highways built under the coordination of the EAC Secretariat especially those linking countries with different driving sides, such as Tanzania and Burundi or Uganda and Rwanda do not even have special inter-connecting hubs to switch motorists from the left to the right and vice-versa.
By MARC NKWAME, Tanzania Daily News