I usually pray before I set off on a journey. Especially if I think the journey is going to be a bit dangerous as the journey to my village Kitabu in Muhokya Sub County can be. There are hilly and slippery stretches of the road there that have claimed many lives. So I always pray that the journey is uneventful and I can see my mother again. But I forgot to pray on this journey. We all forgot.
We were six journalists, friends, all from Radio Messiah. In our grey four wheeler UAJ 918H were Enos Masereka (Assistant News Editor), Florence Kabugho (Assistant Station Manager), Manasi Maate (Station Comedian), and Michael Thembo (News Reporter), the driver Simon, and myself.
I think we were having too much fun to remember to pray. Though we were using the South Rwenzori Diocesan Hiace GL and the guys forced me to take the co-driver’s seat at the front. We were going for the burial of the son of our colleague Morris Muhindo Bakengana. Bakengana’s son Rabson Muhindo had died suddenly and we were travelling to share in our friend’s grief.
Although we were going for a funeral, we were also preparing ourselves for the festivities after. Maseruka had suggested that after the funeral, we stop at Mithibiri trading centre for some delicious pork. Maseruka prodded me to lead because, “We are going to your village, you must be the team leader and pay the highest amount of money for this noble cause.”
When the gang at the back of the Hiace were not teasing me for information about my village, they were coming up with rib cracking funny songs. With Maate in the vehicle, we could not be silent or very serious for long. In one of the songs, I was called the new Diocesan Secretary because I was in the “important” seat at the front with the driver.
The fun did not keep me from urging our driver Simon to engage the four wheel drive gear as we approached Galata. Galata is a hilly road with sharp corners. This is about 3kms off the Kasese-Mbarara road just after the Kahendero station.
Since I was the “native” I turned to warn my friends that we were approaching a dangerous part of the road and journey. Although I said it jokingly, I instructed them to make sure they were buckled in because we were going to take some hair rising corners.
That’s when I noticed Simon, who had ignored our exhortations to engage the four wheel gear, was struggling to get us up the top of the hill. Then Simon was frantically trying to engage the handbreak as he realised he was losing control of the vehicle. Next thing I remember was shaking my head to see clearly and shocked to realise I was looking up at the hill we had been. And that I was upside down.
Our terror at being burned alive if the vehicle caught fire saw us scrambling to exit it as quickly as we could. The vehicle did not catch fire and when the shock wore off, we could begin to laugh at how we had screamed and called upon God to save us. I was the only one who was slightly hurt with a cut on my below my right elbow.
The mourners, who had already heard of the accident after we called ahead, welcomed us with many pats on the back. We were just in time for the 4pm funeral, after walking from the accident scene.
Although the accident occurred on September 15, it did not sink in until Sunday, September 20 when I was sharing testimony in All Saints Kasese Town Church of Uganda. In the presence of my wife Agnes, our two bab
ies Malcolm and Emily, I suddenly burst into tears of relief. A year ago, my elder sister had died in a car accident, I realised in that moment, I could just as well have been in a casket in this church this Sunday. I was glad to be alive!
I can no longer just be a journalist. I have started to agitate for the better maintenance of these winding roads. If there had not been trees, our vehicle would have rolled off the sharp turn of road into the valley below. The cover of trees slowed our vehicle’s roll. This very same road and many others are the arteries that keep the region fed as farmers use them to transport their produce. We need them to get safely to the market for the good of everyone. I will not take the gift of life for granted anymore. Or anyone else’s.