Brian’s Column: Breaking the norm – religion & road safety in Africa

Monday, 4 February 2013 , Brian Bilal Mwebaze

Brian's Column: Breaking the norm - religion & road safety in Africa

This month, Brian gives us the low down of African youth and road safety issues. He focuses on a poignant topic, the reflection that deaths are ‘God’s will’ and therefore, were meant to happen. However, is that still the case if a young driver dies while he or she is drunk driving? What about if a pedestrian is hit by a speeding driver? Read Brian’s take on a relgious approach that could foster road safety.

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Premierement, felicitations a mes amis de Mali upon passing their test against the African Cup of Nations 2013 Hosts, South Africa! West Africa is doing very well in this tournament; surely making my continent proud! That’s for sure, because if you haven’t heard, here is the deal… “In Africa, we don’t play football, we live it!” Don’t question me yet why no African country hasn’t won the world cup but I think if we invite other countries to play in our prestigious African Cup of Nations, they would have a rough time! Haha!! So, my apologies soccer fanatics, but I am not here for soccer stories, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to February!

africa cup of nations 2013

As you may have been warned, this is the same month where we observe Valentine’s Day! Yes! Now, I know that you are all too innocent to know what Valentines day is, but its one of those rare days when I get to see two people put on red and black attire moving hand in hand :o  For now, that’s what I can say. I once heard that its also called ‘Lovers Day’ but my mother pulled my ear when I questioned her for more information haha.
Ok! So, every one of us is an orphan! Right? I can already see many of you raising your eyebrows, but am afraid, I am correct! If you think, this is not the case, then think about this. ‘Where exactly are your Great Great Great Grand Parents?’ Well, they must be no longer with us at the very least! How did they die? Ah, many reasons, mostly witchcraft, bizarre sickness, wars and accidents. What? Accidents?! No, Crashes, I mean. So, as we all know, loosing a human being let it be your enemy, close relative, boyfriend, parent or whatever, can be very depressing. In fact, among the Banyankole (a local tribe in Uganda), the relatives of the family used to stay and mourn at the deceased home for 2 weeks! (now that has changed though and reduced to 3 days). It’s a very trying time in African culture and religion! A burial ceremony is not something neither of us would like to attend. It is most definitely not like a graduation party! No way! But many times, for goodness sake, don’t judge me (thank you very much), I always ask myself this question…‘What was the cause of the death, please?’… Only to be informed, the deceased was involved in a road traffic crash!

roadside memorial
Death will always remain one of the most painful of human experience but if we call preventable road deaths ‘God’s will’ where does that leave road safety?

This is, what I call ‘My fattest stress factor’! I imagine, the deceased was drunk driving, didn’t have helmet, no seatbelt, poor road surfaces, poor weather conditions etc like you know! On many African burial ceremonies, especially when the deceased was a young person (on many occasions it’s a young person under 30),

I find it completely shocking when the priest, the Sheikh, the Pastor (I don’t know many of their titles) stands amidst a congregation and says ‘It was his/her time to die’, ‘God/Allah has decided to take the life of this young person’.

Seriously?! Come on you young people, you have to be kidding me right now. Are we saying that if we drink and drive and get involved in a crash and die (hope this is the last time I am saying this, touch wood!), then it was Allah’s/God’s plan? I may be sounding to be attacking religion, but I am just being a rational being. Speeding itself is equivalent to massacre-special reference is made to the Koran! Also, alcohol is meant for people with lots of problems, those who are at the point of death-special reference to the Bible. There is nowhere in the holy books where getting drunk is acceptable.

african road
We should not fall into the loophole of thinking that we are not agents of our own actions. We CAN make steps to be safer and save our own lives.

A human being knocked by car moving at 30km/hr has a 90% chance of survival than those going faster! So, do we, by speeding, take the role of God in our own hands and offer people less chance of survival by taking more risks? I think funeral services and mourning for road crash victims should be minimized and instead used to highlight the need for road safety because religious groups can help clear the minds of members from superstitious beliefs and help them to rely on good judgment while on the road. While every life is a tragedy, we can take steps to save our lives. God gave us freewill which means that we MUST take steps to be safer on the roads.
In June 2012, Ghana’s statistics had shown that about 11,500 accidents were reported annually; about 14,500 for injuries and 1,900 fatalities recorded annually, hence the need for religious leaders to support road safety campaigns. According to Mrs. May Obiri-Yeboah, Director of Planning and Programmes of NRSC in her June 2012 report, a road safety campaign was led by a small sector of engineers, car makers and traffic police hence the need to expand to involve everyone in the country. The challenges of road traffic crashes required re-programming activities and engage opinion and religious leaders in the drive against such occurrences hampering national and regional progress.

In Africa, a child’s access to safe pedestrian infrastructure is considerably lower in comparison to a child of the same age in a high-income country. If a child dies on the road in Africa and it is because it they had to share the road with big trucks, is this God’s plan?

It is clear that religious leaders may reflect on the lives lost and offer comfort in the words that it was all ‘God’s will’. It helps us let go, gives us support but it also takes the responsibility away from the driver who may have been to blame for the crash.

Religious groups should keep pushing the fact that God gave us this live to live free from pain and suffering. If this happened, it would include mandatory road safety policy in sermons to reduce human suffering and ensure we are safer.

We should therefore encourage religious groups to push messages of safety to preserve this precious life in the best ways we can. Tell me something, who decides to step on the accelerator? Me, the driver, yes? Aha! So, then, lets make steps so that our friends, peers and future husbands and wives do not make an unduly date with death before it happens. It’s not God’s will for our generation to die from man-made death scenarios. Hello Valentine’s Day (wnks). #StaySafe

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2 thoughts on “Brian’s Column: Breaking the norm – religion & road safety in Africa

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  1. If that is what pastor’s say (and I have heard it and thought the same as you) is shows they should spend more time reading the Bible! Maybe their model is Jehu who was described as driving like a madman (2 Kings 9 verse 20) or Isaiah 65:20 when in the new society (which should be that of the kingdom) a person is considered accursed if they fail to reach 100 (Isa 65:20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”) The reason people don’t preach this is that they do not have to want to change their own behaviour (ie driving style). Maybe a lot of Africa Christianity is really a form of paganism. Thanks for keeping spreading the message about accidents!

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