Muda Mrefu

We Have Traffic Lights!

Although the Arusha Times has taken to calling them “traffic control lights”, they are your common variety traffic lights. Arusha’s population is growing rapidly, but not nearly as rapidly as the number of cars that crawl and clatter around town. The roads are not enough, and the traffic situation is getting worse all the time. Then, along came the raffic control lights. Apparently someone has paid a HUGE amount, to whom I do not know, in order to have the privilege of putting street lights and traffic lights in some areas of town. This unknown (to me) party has paid in order to install the lights because they will then own the advertising rights for every street light and traffic light for ever and ever (again, a guess). The lights all have an advertising board on them, ergo there is money to be made.

The one intersection in town where the lights are up and running is a a spectacle to behold. At first hundreds of people, nowadays only tens, gather to watch the lights working (as in the bulbs going on and off properly) and to revel in the chaos that ensues. The city decreed that only three of the four roads leading into the intersection deserved a traffic light. The fourth is a busy dust track that winds and bumps down Mount Meru from a town called Sanawari, running parallel to our own dusty track that runs down from Ilboru. Because it is not paved, the municipality decided that it does not get a light. They actually explained that one important issue was that they could not paint the necessary lanes onto a dust road. So the dozens of Dala Dalas (minibuses), taxis and carts that come down from Sanawari are left to carve their own path into the busy computerized intersection. The result? Bedlam. Pure, African bedlam, the best kind.

I urge you to read the article in the Arusha Times about the new traffic control lights. Of course you want to read about it all from an accredited news agency rather than believing everything that I write, but the Arusha Times delivers writing that is unique and from another time. A couple of quotes:

“They are playing with people’s lives. Had it not been for Traffic policemen who have been intervening, all day long, this junction would have been a pool of human blood,” said a woman who identified herself by the name of Mama Elisha.

A pedestrian, Melita Mollel said: “I’m surprised by the technology that threatens lives. It instructs you to cross the road but as soon as you start moving you’re surrounded by cars, all scrambling to knock you down.”

Keep reading the New York Times, the Corriere, the Repubblica. You won’t find stuff like this anywhere.


October 21, 2007 - Posted by | Arusha


  1. Why don’t the local authorities ask the Italian government to send experts to teach them how to negotiate traffic”control” lights. The best experts come from Napoli, but the ones from Roma are ok too! I recall a similar situation, when around 1980 traffic lights were introduced in Kuwait City. During ones of my visits a local told me that in the beginning there was chaos and a blood bath because the Kuwaitis thought the lights were there only for foreigners (Palestinians, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos ect…) and not for them! You also have to consider that the Kuwaitis drove mile long American limos whilst the foreigners drove second hand Japanese cars!
    Ciao Giorgio

    Comment by Giorgio | October 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. ma non ci posso credere!

    Comment by resa | October 23, 2007 | Reply

  3. hi there dont suppose you have conact with nick wilson (wilson international) in arusha trying to get reference for new job and cant find any of my old contact details?? thank you ben

    Comment by ben thorsen | August 2, 2008 | Reply


    Comment by ben thorsen | August 2, 2008 | Reply

  5. thanks for pass on/Ben

    Comment by Ben | December 23, 2011 | Reply

  6. My favorite part of that stoplight when it was new was the light telling pedestrians to cross because it looked like a man dancing. You would be delighted/horrified to see the current intersection, now a dual carriageway with traffic going in both directions on both sides because of construction. Hope you are well.

    Comment by msseemmaa | April 14, 2017 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: