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The different types of traffic officers

You must address the impressionists by their name…

Afande 101: Uganda is a special country. It is the only country where nothing gets said directly. We speak in innuendos, we insinuate, we imply, we never use direct speech. We answer questions with questions. If you meet someone randomly, you express surprise saying, “kumbe you are also here!” It is these subtleties that define our relationships, our conversations.

To survive in Uganda, one must be aware of the unspoken, of the indirect. The biggest of all is one’s dealings with a Ugandan traffic officer. They come in different flavours. Some are smoky, some are bland, but yet, you never find anyone devoid of intention.

  1. The passionate ones

No one teaches passion. You either have it, or you don’t. If you have had a chance to pass by the Kisaasi junction, you will come across passion in action. You will see a traffic officer who embodies passion. You must tread with caution when you meet these kinds. They do not compromise! If they forgive you, it is purely out of principle, with no strings attached. Do not dare these guys. If you find taxis adhering to the defined lanes, and not bypassing any rules, rest assured the passionate officers are on duty. Do not risk giving them some tea, they will throw it in your face and punish you with a big ticket. And for some reason, they always have rare names. Sometimes they will be named after days of the week; you will hear names such as ‘Sunday’ aka ‘Sande’, ‘Monday’ aka ‘Mande’.

  1. The auditors

If you meet an auditor in the skin of a traffic police officer, only your ancestors can save you. Auditors start off the conversation with questions. “Can I have a look at your permit?” Once they realise that the permit is not expired, they then move to the next item on the agenda. They will scan it to confirm that there are no traffic fines attached to it. If you pass this stage, it is time to confirm your third party. If this too is fine, then it is time to confirm the brake lights are in perfect condition.

By this time, they will be running out of audit items. It is now time to audit your character. You could get fined for having intentions to speed. You could get fined for not smiling at the traffic officer. There is no way out with an auditor. When it comes to an auditor, there is only two things involved, you either pay at the bank or in person. The choice is always left in your hands.

In Uganda, there is a written rule about driving permits. You do not keep your driving permit in the wallet. You do not keep your permit in any place that gives any impression of money. As you pull out your permit from the wallet, the officer’s eyes will be gauging how high you can jump.

  1. The emojis

When a traffic officer approaches you and all you see is nothing but an emoji, do not waste time. It is time to recount your haggling skills. Emojis will do their best to greet you by name. When a Ugandan traffic officer greets you by name, all they are asking is for you to speak their language. And Ugandan traffic officers have but one language; it is the language that is heard regardless of one’s tribe, one’s religion, one’s car type. Traffic officers will use different statements such as; “How have you left us?” “Do you have today’s newspapers?” “Vaayo gyoli” “Wesulisse” “Do you have another copy of your permit?”, “First come out of the car.” When a traffic officer asks you to come out of the car, it is to give you one last chance to redeem yourself by some rubbles.

  1. The lawyers

There is one other unwritten rule when dealing with Ugandan traffic officers. “A Ugandan traffic officer is always right.” Just never give them the impression that you know better. If he quotes a section of the law, simply nod in shock, express amazement at his knowledge, seek his guidance and all will be well. Ugandan traffic officers hate lugezigezi, the kind displayed by drivers of Mercedez Benz. Deep down, every traffic officer believes themselves to be the alpha and omega of traffic rules. If you want peace on Ugandan roads, never bust this bubble for a traffic officer.

When you meet the lawyer kind, nod in agreement to every statement they make. If they tell you the law always requires one to have their permit, do not start saying; “somewhere I read, I have at least 48 hours leeway”. Act ignorant. Act humble. Do not start asking if they know who you are. A Ugandan traffic officer will do anything to salvage his ego. Never argue with a traffic officer. Always act like ‘muntu wawansi’. Leave the arrogance to the chaps of Bugolobi and Kiwatule.

  1. The impressionists

In Uganda, first impressions are everything when you meet a traffic officer. If you fail to impress a traffic officer within the first 30 seconds, you are finished. There are different ways of impressing a Ugandan officer.

One of the ways is to don your professional costumes. If you are an engineer, have your reflector and helmet on as you approach the officer. If you are a doctor, do not forget that white coat. If you are a farmer, you must move with some of your chicken in the car. But above all, fake some conversation with some random Twitter General. When you get stopped, immediately receive a phone call and start a conversation. “Yes Afande MK, I can set off for Karamoja today. I can carry buckets of hell to those fellows. Nani Afande, let me first talk to Afande Joseph here.”

For the impressionists, you must address them by their name. They are taken up by praises and titles. Do not forget to thank them for the good work they are doing. Complain about other road users and how they misbehave. There is nothing that will unite you with a traffic officer than having a common enemy. Complain about the Subaru drivers and their flying cars, complain about the Harrier drivers and their wheelbarrow cars. Also remember that if you are flagged down and you have passengers in your car, the quickest way to close the conversation is to have it outside. If you insist on staying inside the car, that is a sure ticket.

Twitter: ortegatalks

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