Uganda's Masaka-Kampala highway: Is this the world's most dangerous road?

More than 200 people have died on this highway so far in 2016, suggeting it could trump Bolivia's infamous 'Death Road'

Adam Withnall
Africa Correspondent
Monday 26 September 2016 17:33 BST
The start of the Masaka-Kampala road, leaving the Ugandan capital
The start of the Masaka-Kampala road, leaving the Ugandan capital (Google)

More people have died in the first nine months of 2016 on a single highway in Uganda than die on average each year on Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road”, begging the question - is this the most dangerous road in the world?

According to local officials, more than 200 people have died since January on the Masaka-Kampala highway, which skirts Lake Victoria and connects traffic from Kenya’s coast all the way through Uganda to Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo beyond.

On 2 July, a single accident claimed 21 lives, including that of a six-year-old child, when a trailer truck slammed into two full minibuses.

And later that month, a district traffic police boss was himself among the victims when five died and 50 were injured in a pile-up involving six vehicles on the road.

The extraordinary death toll has forced the government to take action, and the Ministry of Works and Transport has launched a programme to tackle the issue.

Operation Fika Salama - Swahili for “Arrive Safely” - will take a zero-tolerance approach to traffic violations on the road, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sarah Kwibika told the AFP News Agency.

“Ninety per cent of the accidents are due to human error,” she said. “We will prosecute, without mercy, every driver we find breaking even the smallest regulation.”

Its reputation as a death trap means some travellers now avoid using the Masaka-Kampala highway altogether.

Despite each accident leading to new calls for something to be done with the road, no one can actually agree on what causes so many incidents to occur.

After the 2 July crash, police and government officials toured the road’s six worst accident black spots, warning motorists to observe the highway code.

But the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) also promised to take samples of the tarmac at the key points, amid reports suggesting the majority of the accidents occurred during or just after rain.

The road has been widened and resurfaced in recent years as part of a major refurbishment funded by international donors.

Yet with the UNRA hit by repeated corruption scandals, there are suggestions the road itself remains dangerously inadequate.

And according to AFP, some believe witchcraft is to blame for the deaths. A pastor who conducted his first “road exorcism” on the highway told the agency: “It is the devil who has made this road so dangerous.”

World’s most dangerous roads

(Wikimedia Commons
(Wikimedia Commons (Wikimedia Commons)

North Yungas Road, Bolivia, also known as El Camino de la Muerte or "Death Road", averages between 200 and 300 deaths per year

(Wikimedia Commons
(Wikimedia Commons (Wikimedia Commons)

Fairy Meadows Road in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, 16.2km of “treacherous high altitude, unstable and narrow mountain roads”

(Wikimedia Commons
(Wikimedia Commons (Wikimedia Commons)

Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand, a route so dangerous “your rental car insurance won't be honoured if you drive on it”.

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