Wearing pristine white with her woollen socks pulled high, Ugandan traffic police officer Edith Nanteza exudes natural authority at the roadblock, barely lifting a hand as she waves motorists over.
This is no routine exercise. Nanteza is on the frontline of operation “Fika Salama” — Swahili for “arrive safely” — a high-profile attempt by the government to regain control of what the country fears has become the planet’s deadliest highway.
From the top of a hill, Nanteza surveys the road, a heat haze shimmering over the tarmac highway stretching into the distance.
“Over 200 people have died on this road since January. It’s been a massacre,” she says.
By comparison, Bolivia’s Yungas Road, a notorious mountain pass better known as “Death Road”, averages between 200 and 300 deaths per year.
That would put the 130-kilometre (80-mile) Kampala-Masaka highway on at least similar ground with its 200 dead in the first eight months of 2016.
Witchcraft, poor roadwork and dangerous driving — all have been blamed for the killer highway whose users will often turn to prayer before taking the road.
In the local police station in Mpigi, Nanteza points to the mangled wreckage piled up in the yard.
“Recently 21 people, including a child, died in a single accident,” she says while shooing away a goat.
“A car tried to overtake the vehicle in front but collided with a trailer truck which lost control and crashed into two full minibus taxis.”
Nsubuga Shabal, who was travelling to Kampala with his wife and seven-year-old son, was caught up in the carnage.
“My wife died on the spot. Our child is now living with relatives. He’s still injured and needs treatment but I can’t provide anything since I’m still recovering,” he says.
“And I lost my job because I can’t walk properly due to my injuries.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police Sarah Kwibika is in charge of operation Fika Salama.
“Ninety percent of the accidents are due to human error,” she says.