From artistic impressions to places of refuge

By definition fly overs are not necessarily bridges and so don’t fit the grandeur picturesque images usually seen in the movies or documentaries. Those hanging bridges, don’t fool yourself all we specialize in Uganda is an artistic impression. The latest is the one in Jinja where the railway will pass earliest 2022 if the powers allow. However, not to be left behind, Africa as well has a number of bridges so many to the extent our politicians have been known to commission bridges that collapse moment they leave the scene.

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In Uganda despite having a terrain of mainly hills especially our capital city, Kampala we have very few bridges and our most important bridge is 80km away in Jinja and also houses the power dams that generate electricity. With the economy growing pretty fast and traffic jam biting at every corner, calls have been made for more fly overs or bridges in local speak. This has resulted in picturesque artistic impressions that stand guard near the construction site that is if they are ever constructed as many that’s where they stop.

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One road that seems to have produced the most impressive artistic impressions is the Northern Bypass the high traffic diversion road funded by the European Union that’s taking forever to be completely built. At different spots they have creatively constructed these bridges to connect the different hills that make up Kampala.

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One of my favorite is in Kiwatule and I use it on a daily basis. Twice a day Monday to Friday, morning and evening. The bridge connects Najjera a suburb housing the fast growing middle income to Ntinda all the way to the business district of the city.  Cars heading out of the city pass under the bridge through Bweyogerere to the highway into the heart the eastern part of the country.

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To Head up the bridge there are no steps or anything fancy rather a beaten track that winds its way up to the top of the bridge. The taxi touts below maintain the track once in a while by cutting steps into it but on a rainy days when it’s slippery its everyman to himself. The only reason they maintain the track is to give them reason to extort loading fares from the taxis that park along the northern bypass to pick passengers.

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When it’s not being used to ferry passengers it can be seen housing lazy bones who hang around it in the lounging under the evening sun, lovers in pairs also dot it as well as cattle. On rainy days it also serves as a shelter as we pray it stops raining which attracts the street vendors and road side street food which is available on the cheap. It has also acted as a raised platform to better view accident scenes or protesters on those days when the world decides to turn upside down. The youth also like spraying it with graffiti to pass their message on and recently a local NGO started placing anti AIDS messages.

This scene repeats itself on all the bridges that have been constructed thus far and more are going to be constructed in the near future with the southern bypass coming soon.

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