By: Abdirashid Ahmed Guleid
Somalilandsun – Nowadays the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, is facing a multitude of traffic problems. The main problem is the lack of sufficient roads to accommodate the ever-increasing number of vehicles that ply on the roads. Pedestrian paths do not exist as well.
The lack of sewerage systems exacerbates the traffic problems on the rainy days. Somaliland is a young nation that is not recognized by the international community and, hence, the country is facing a crippling budget constraint and consequent inability to address the infrastructural problems of the capital city in particular and the country in general.
This being the case, we can categorize the city’s traffic problems into those that can be ameliorated without external support and those that require huge investments and external assistance. Some of the problems only require attitudinal change and some patriotism.
In the following lines, an attempt is made to shed some light on the city’s traffic problems and possible solutions.
Non-existence of Traffic Signs
This almost complete lack of crucial traffic signs is a big headache for the management of the city’s traffic problems. The fixing of traffic signs on the city’s major roads does not require a lot of money from the city’s finances. Any person who had the chance to live in cities in other parts of the world would definitely form a negative opinion regarding Hargeisa’s administrators. Instead of resources, addressing this constraint might just require an attitudinal change and some sense of patriotism on the part of the city’s rulers.
The fixing of some important traffic signs around key locations of the city’s roads would go a long way in doing away towards the reduction of traffic jam problems. For example, no-parking signs in some down-town areas would solve jamming problems and ameliorate drivers’ and traffic police headaches.
Lack of Sufficient Roads
Lack of sufficient roads is the major cause for traffic problems in the city. The fact of the matter is vehicles are being imported in droves while the road network is not even being upgraded. There is a significant section of the city’s population that has become rich over the years since May 1991 when Somaliland came into being. This has meant that car ownership per capita has increased sharply while kilometres per vehicle is decreasing. The main roads in Hargeisa city are those that existed before 1991 when the city’s population was just around 100,000. The current estimate of the city’s population is around a million.
The ring road around the city known locally as “the 150 road” probably named after its width in feet measurement was planned during Eng Mohamed Hashi’s term as the city’s mayor, which was a good contribution to the city’s road plan at that time. This ring road is under construction in the northern side of the city at a snail’s pace and has not reached the level that would make an impact in decreasing the city’s highway needs.
The road needs of the city require a large capital investment that is beyond the city’s current budgetary capacity. Nevertheless, if the capitals’ municipal administrator’s invested some hard thinking, they could come up with ways to access foreign aid by going through the right hierarchy in thegovernment.
Traffic Police Professionalism Problems
Lack of traffic police professionalism can be cited as an impediment to the amelioration of the city’s traffic problems. During the course of the day, the traffic police routinely engage in stopping the vehicles in the middle of the roads for no apparent reasons. Having said this, I will not hesitate to state that many of the city’s traffic police officers are doing their work diligently but it is obvious that they lack necessary training that would enable them to do professional job.
It is my belief that whistles should be blown when the police needs to stop offending drivers, but in Hargeisa traffic police use their whistles to direct traffic instead of using their hands. This is cause for confusion for the Diaspora returnees and foreigners who constitute a significant portion of the city’s residents.
Lack of Traffic Lights
In some critical intersections, installing traffic lights might well solve the congestion problems. Installing traffic lights does not cost a fortune. The current magnitude of the city’s traffic cannot go without traffic lights at the right intersection points. The re-introduction of the traffic lights might as well contribute to enhancing the image of the city. Mayor Awl Elmi Abdalla once installed few traffic lights in Hargeisa, and residents named the traffic lights after him. When he vacated the mayor’s office, the traffic lights disappeared. What a pity!
If you are coming from other parts of the world, and you decide to drive in Hargeisa, your first negative impression in Hargeisa would most probably be the deliberate misuse of the city’s roads by reckless drivers. In Hargeisa, it is very common to observe two vehicles who are being driven in opposite directions and the two drivers happen to know each other; they would stop and block the whole road to start a lengthy conversation that might take minutes. The other drivers would bitterly complain this unacceptable attitude by blowing their cars’ whistles.
Some drivers seem to enjoy this habit of blocking the road and offending the others. Another behavioral problem is double parking. You park your car properly and leave the car to attend to your personal business. You come back and you find another driver has deliberately blocked your way out. This is a cause for bursting with anger. But the driver who blocked your way comes after some time and he/she demonstrates no sign of wrong doing and would hardly express any word of apology. For hot tempered people, such a behavior might just lead them to fight the absconding driver.
The Plight of Pedestrians
By and large, pedestrians are the victims who are the most affected by the city’s traffic problems. The elderly people seem to be fed up with the increased vehicles and drivers’ lack of manners by not giving them priority to cross. There is competition for the use of the roads, and the situation can be described as the “survival of the fittest”.
Occasionally, you can observe some traffic police officers who stop the vehicles so that some elderly people can cross the road. Sometimes, you can hear the elderly people uttering some cursing words out of frustration with their inability to cross the roads. The city administrators are obliged to urgently do something in order create a win-win environment for all users of the roads.
The following lines contain a pit of advice for drivers and for the city administrators.
Drivers in the city would be advised to adhere to the rules of the road. If you ever engaged in stopping on the road to talk with your friend and blocking the traffic, please respect the wider public and park your car before enjoying good conversation with your friends. You might try to please your friend by stopping your car beside your friend’s car thereby blocking the road behind, but you need to balance and not to offend many people at the cost of pleasing your friend.
Please also avoid double parking, since this causes the loss of time and probably missing important businesses as a result of your double parking action.
The city administrators would be advised to think hard and come up with concrete solutions that would sustainably solve the current acute traffic problems. They know that many of the above-mentioned problems do not require huge funds, but some honest steps from their side.
Installing traffic lights and fixing traffic signs in the appropriate places require little resources and some demonstration of leadership role on the part of the city’s managers. Some innovative solutions like the solution of the pedestrian path and walk sides might require some extra expertise for which the city mangers might assign local consultants.
For major road investments, the city managers shall at least allocate some of their funds for the preparation of complete project studies and designs with the assistance of local consultants. These complete studies can then be submitted to the planning ministry. The planning ministry can then submit these studies to international donors for funding. This might take some time, but as the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.
Abdirashid Ahmed Guleid, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org