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Bodas ride on politics to survive the law

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th September 2008 03:00 AM

WITH the confusion amongst leaders and the Police in the last few weeks over boda-bodas (transport cyclists), it looks like none of them has a vision of how boda-boda operations can be streamlined. And the riders have learnt to play the victims, creating confusion amongst authorities.

WITH the confusion amongst leaders and the Police in the last few weeks over boda-bodas (transport cyclists), it looks like none of them has a vision of how boda-boda operations can be streamlined. And the riders have learnt to play the victims, creating confusion amongst authorities.

By Joshua Kato

WITH the confusion amongst leaders and the Police in the last few weeks over boda-bodas (transport cyclists), it looks like none of them has a vision of how boda-boda operations can be streamlined. And the riders have learnt to play the victims, creating confusion amongst authorities. The fact that no political rally is complete without bodas means, “every politician wants them.”

Two weeks ago, Kampala City Council (KCC) gave a directive stopping boda-bodas from entering the central business district. Deputy mayor Florence Namayanja, said the move was to decongest the city. The cyclists were given until September 22.

However, the Police stopped this saying they were not informed on time and were not involved in the meetings where the decision was reached

The riders had vowed to strip naked if the directive was implemented. For now and as usual, the aggressive riders have won.

Boda-bodas contribute to nearly all ills in the city, like traffic congestion, crime, garbage and pollution. And yet, they do not pay any levies to their councils.
Anybody can become a boda-boda rider. “All they do is get a bike, go to the nearest open area, ride two or three times and he calls himself a boda-boda rider,” says traffic chief Steven Kasiima. As a result, they do not follow road signs or traffic regulations.

Nobody knows how many boda-bodas there are in Kampala. Some estimate the figure at around 20,000. “There is no clear system of setting up stages. Two or more riders just start parking at a spot and are joined by others, then that becomes a stage,” says Edward Ssegonga, a rider near Nakivubo stadium.

According to Kampala Central division chairman, Godfrey Nyakana, there are over 7,000 in the city. He adds that rather than chasing boda bodas completely, only 2,000 should be left.

“These will be well-monitored.”

On average there is a boda-boda stage every 200 meters in the city. For example, from Lugogo stadium to Uganda House, there is a stage at Lugogo and on the road that branches to Port-bell road, near The New Vision offices.

The other stages are at the Immigration offices, near Celtel House, near the Electoral Commission offices, there are two stages at the Kitgum House junction, at Shell, Spear House, opposite Uganda Railways and at Uganda House. These are 12 boda-boda stages within a 2km stretch.

Boda-bodas at stages along Ben Kiwanuka and Luwum streets as wellas Kafumbe Mukasa Road add to the confusion, as they dart in and out of the road.

For long, KCC has tried to make boda-bodas pay fees, a move that would generate about sh200m annually for the city authority, but the payments have always been halted by State House.

Three years ago, KCC issued a directive that every motorbike should get a number indicating the division where it operates and pay sh9,000 monthly. The riders sought political support; they held demonstrations and stopped paying the fee.

In 2001, President Yoweri Museveni used a boda-boda to go for presidential nominations at Kololo airstrip. He met them at the International Conference Centre weeks later and promised to support them. State House started a fund that enabled over 1,000 boda-bodas get their own bikes. Although this was meant to reduce poverty, the riders used this relationship with State House to fight the city authorities.

Furthermore, in 2004, when then Kampala mayor John Ssebaana Kizito tried to rein in the boda-bodas, Nasser Ssebagala, then a prospective mayoral candidate supported them. “They cannot be chased away. They are our people,” he said.

However, when he became mayor in 2006, his stance changed. However, the riders reminded him of their role in his campaigns. “You promised that every resident of Kampala would go home with a kaveera (some food) everyday; why are you changing? asked Swaibu Lwanga, a rider near the Kira Road Police stage.

Such is the confusion among authorities, as far as bodas are concerned, that even when the Police launched a swoop to force them to acquire driving permits, helmets and reflective jackets, some politicians, including Kampala Central Division MP Erias Lukwago, condemned the Police.

As long as boda-bodas are used as election tools, it will be hard to clamp down on them.

Bodas ride on politics to survive the law

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