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boda boda phobia attacks Jinja

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th August 2003 03:00 AM

THE taxi sped along the serpentine highway and the mileage increased as we passed dotted linear settlements, leaving behind plantations of sugarcane and tea that elaborate a thriving agricultural sector of the country’s economy.

THE taxi sped along the serpentine highway and the mileage increased as we passed dotted linear settlements, leaving behind plantations of sugarcane and tea that elaborate a thriving agricultural sector of the country’s economy.

By Raymond Baguma

THE taxi sped along the serpentine highway and the mileage increased as we passed dotted linear settlements, leaving behind plantations of sugarcane and tea that elaborate a thriving agricultural sector of the country’s economy.

Soon, the scattered homesteads gave way to the larger townships of Mbiko and Njeru before we approached the Nalubaale hydroelectric power dam.

From my seat, I stared below at the camping sites dotting the banks of the mighty River Nile. The setting sun gave the waters a dark blue tinge. Far across, a tourist boat cruised past the spot where John Hannington Speke stood in 1862. In my heart I thought, “unfortunate is the man who has never seen the Nile.” Welcome to Jinja, the frontier town and gateway to the heartland of eastern Uganda.

I grew up in this town and on arrival, childhood memories flowed back from the innermost depths of my being. Then, Jinja blossomed like a budding sunflower crop in the garden and I recall when my grandfather lost his way home after he had fallen asleep aboard a taxi. Recalling this incident, I kept awake throughout the journey.

Today, as one proceeds towards Jinja town, there is a noticeable change in scheme from tree-lined boulevards in Nalufenya, to dismal Indian architecture that is a legacy of past Asian dominance. Jinja is like a dirge – soulful and plaintive.

Worth observing is that Jinja has become a hubbub of bicycle hire guys (boda boda) who wait for intending travellers at street corners and verandahs. The radiance of the town is manifested in the bicycles that are phenomenally popular in Busoga region like what the game of Cricket is on the Indian sub-continent.

The love for the bicycle is revealed in a tale about Isabirye, a traveller from Busoga who insisted on boarding a Kampala-bound bus with his bicycle on the head for the reason that he could not stand seeing it carried in the cargo section. Such is the love for riding in Jinja town where the municipal authorities have failed to determine the population of bicycles. Riding seems to be an obsession that has got to the feet and toes of all people irrespective of age or sex – the women too have defeated cultural prejudice to ride bicycles with a passion.

The Basoga in the area have their souls embedded in the bicycle which is even used for health service delivery –– FABIO, a local NGO, has introduced the bicycle ambulance for the sick and expectant mothers in the rural areas.

For the love of the bicycle, a 10-year bicycle master plan has been drawn and Jinja was chosen for the pilot project because of the overwhelming number of bicycles.

The plan initiated by FABIO in
partnership with Júgendhilfe Óstafrika, based in Germany, aims at easing mobility through bicycle use, according to Patrick Kayemba,
FABIO’s programme manager.

“Policy makers have often ignored bicycles when planning for mobility. Roads ought to be used by all traffic and under the plan, bicycle lanes are to be constructed in the town. On the African continent, bicycles are used in the rural areas to carry heavy loads and it is an affordable means of transport for the rural traders who use them in delivering their produce to the markets,” Judith Nabulwala said. “Government should scrap taxes on bicycles and spare parts and make it affordable for the rural people,” Nabulwala added.

“Bicycles are the leading source of employment for the youths around here and we see new riders coming from the villages daily to earn a living. But most cyclists do not perceive the details in traffic regulations and think that traffic laws do not apply to them,” Daniel Zeeba, the OC traffic, said.

According to Zeeba, 40 to 50% of accidents in the municipality involve cyclists and accidents on the highways involving cyclists are always fatal. To the average boda boda rider, the number of bicycles has proved disadvantageous,
“There are very many bicycles which makes it competitive for us.
We struggle to make ends meet and earn little money yet we have to pay monthly dues of sh2,000 to the municipal council,” Abdu Isabirye, a boda boda rider said.

Jinja may be dead owing to the historical (1972) events of the expulsion of Asian investors by former president Idi Amin.

However, the soul of the town is radiant like the sun rising above this town and is visible in the young men and women as they go about their business riding bicycles in the wide empty streets. The bicycle rides continue.

boda boda phobia attacks Jinja

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