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Uganda

Kawunyemu app warns Uganda's drink-drivers of police checks

If your country's police force has a reputation for corruption, how comfortable would you feel as a motorist about spot checks for drink-driving? One software developer came up with his own solution.

A group of police officers are engaged in an altercation with a driver who they have just stopped at a checkpoint.  He has been asked to take a breathalyzer test to determine if he was in a fit state to drive. He wasn't.

In Uganda, these checks are known as Kawunyemu, which means "smell it." Before the introduction of the breathalyzer, Ugandan police would use their noses to detect whether a suspect had been drink-driving or not.

One Ugandan software developer has designed a smartphone app with which motorists can warn fellow drivers of the location of police drink-drive checkpoints.

This developer has refused to be interviewed by the media face-to-face or reveal his name but claims that his invention has been welcomed by the many people who are using it.

Drunken friends 

He says inspiration for the app came after six friends of his - all in the same vehicle - were arrested. They were all drunk.

He defends himself against criticism of his app.

"While people may think it's a bad thing and so forth, if you look at the way the police operate sometimes, you just have no option but to do what you can, so we decided to come up with this app.

The Ugandan police have been listed as among the most corrupt government departments in the country.

Drivers have the responsibility "not to drink and drive," the developer said. "People who are drunk should watch the speed at which they are driving and try and get somebody else to drive them instead."

Kawunyemu - the drink driving app (DW/A. Gitta)

Breath tests may save lives but some Ugandans are wary of spot checks

Police say they are looking for the developer, who can expect to face cyber crime-related charges.

They say they have been monitoring users of the app and could be closing in on the developer.

The police have also launched a campaign to specifically discourage people from downloading the app.

DW asked a few Ugandan drivers whether they would use the app to avoid a police drink-drive checkpoint. Some said they would install the app to avoid corrupt policemen who were always soliciting for bribes. Others believe the app will cause more accidents.

"The idea of having roadblocks to catch people who are driving under the influence is a good one. The intention is good, but is has been abused, it has been misused, because the police are there to collect money. If this application is there to help me know where they have put the roadblocks, I would use it," one motorist said. But another motorist is more cautious. "It gives a lot of loop holes so that people can beat the police. I have heard about it, but I haven't used it,"