When nearly 60 people died in deadly road carnage near Nesitu checkpoint in September last year, the country was in uproar against one company, Bakulu Coaches.
Sixty South Sudanese and Ugandan passengers traveling to Kampala were killed when the bus collided with a truck on a bridge along Nimule highway.
That was the third accident that year, and a total of 90 people were already dead.
Bakulu was already prone to accident. In 2011 at least 28 people were killed when Bakulu and Baby coaches collided 40kms east of Juba. Then in 2013, an Isuzu brand bus belonging to Bakulu Bus had a head-on collision with Toyota Land Cruiser Ambulance belonging to Nimule Hospital.
In January 2014, one of Bakulu buses overturned on Atiak – Nimule road. 16 people were injured
In January 2015, the driver of a Bakulu bus registration UAQ 045Q, died and 12 others were critically injured after the bus had a head on collision with a trailer truck registration CE666D/ZP9695 at Aruu Junction.
In February, 2015, 10 people were also killed and 7 others severely injured in a head on collision accident involving a Bakulu bus, registration number UAS 201N and a taxi along Gulu-Juba highway.
A Kenyan and two South Sudanese nationals lost all their arms.
But the company had already hit the last straw in its deadly ply by September 2014, when a fatal accident involving bus number UAS 0793P collided with a truck number UAD 304E killing at least 35 Ugandans and 15 South Sudanese.
The public both in South Sudan and Uganda demanded immediate banning of the company. The issue was raised at the National Parliament in Juba.
A few months later, the company ceased operations on the Juba – Kampala route. This was because members of parliament in South Sudan and Ugandan authorities were mad that Bakulu services uses old buses and tired drivers. Bakulu management never publicly admitted or denied these claims though.
But it was the last time Bakulu buses were involved in an accident in South Sudan.
In over a year, little has been known of what really happened to the company.
But our blogger Ahmed Lotole recently uncovered that Bakulu buses still ply on the South Sudan-Uganda route, under a different name and management.
If you have recently traveled to Kampala from Juba, then you will notice that there are two new players in the market; Crown Bus and Echo Bus. And as you may guess it right, Crown bus company actually now owns some of Bakulu buses.
According to an informant working for the Crown bus company, the new management heard Bakulu was closing down; so they opted to purchase some of the buses, including old but “road-worthy” ones.
The informant told HIJ blogger that Crown Company has been raising funds off Bakulu buses in order to purchase new buses that will soon arrive from Japan.
The old Bakulu buses have never stopped traveling on the road. They carry passengers twice a day on the same route from Kampala to Juba and vice-versa.
The informant claimed that it was reckless driving and lack of attention to traffic rules by Bakulu drivers that caused some of the tragic accidents.
“It is actually not the bus that goes and knocks something, it is the driver who looses control and changing the right direction the bus is supposed to be taking. In this case, we are careful and mindful about the Nimule highway,”he said.
Ahmed Lotole who used the bus recently noticed that the former Bakulu buses, now, Crown buses are driven by two drivers. One drives upto Gulu and the next driver takes over upto Kampala.
The bus he used was not in good shape. It broke down 3 times whenever its pulled-over. It would take 20 to 30 minutes for the mechanic to fix and restart the engine.
Only the exterior makeover of the bus was done.
So far, none of the crown buses has gotten involved in a major accident on the Juba-Kampala highway.
With the Ugandan-side of the tarmacked highway almost reaching Elegu, it remains to be seen how the two countries will govern the speed of the motorists and uphold traffic laws on both sides.