It will not be business as usual for boda boda riders in Kenya after President Kenyatta ordered the operators to register their motorcycles, form Saccos, and obtain smart licenses before riding back on the roads.
The crackdown, which kicked off on Monday night was sparked by huge condemnation of the government after a video of a woman being assaulted in Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Road by a gang of riders turned viral.
In response, Kenyans pointed an accusing finger to the government for lax regulations in taming players in this ubiquitous form of transport across the country.
From riding against traffic, and on city pavements, to violating traffic lights with impunity while also establishing their own parking stages off town streets, Kenya’s boda boda sector has been turning rogue every day under the government’s watch.
“We are going to re-register you (boda boda riders) all again and we must make sure that we safeguard women. I have instructed the law enforcement officers to use instruments within the law to punish these perpetrators. There should never be a repeat of what we saw,” the President said.
To ease the exercise, the government has waived the Kes5,400 license fee for all boda boda riders to register afresh, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said.
Mr Kenyatta, further cautioned politicians not to take advantage of the crackdown for political gain, saying the clampdown was aimed at riding the sector of criminal elements that had infiltrated the business.
The President said his administration had invested heavily in the growth of the boda boda sector, cautioning that the government’s goodwill shouldn’t be misconstrued as a nod to engage in crime by the riders.
“A boda boda is not a license to strip a woman. There should never be a repeat of what happened on Friday. This is a blight on the whole Kenyan society.
“We want to support bodaboda business but it is not a license for boda boda to drive on walkways threatening pedestrians, engage in drive-by shootings and most definitely, it is not a license for you to strip and remove dignity from our women. We will re-register all bodabodas. Those who want to politicize this let them go ahead and do that,” the President reiterated.
On average, a boda boda costs between Sh58,000 and Sh150,000 in Kenya and because of their affordability, many youths across cities, towns, and rural areas continue to acquire them to eke out a living.
Economic Survey 2020 shows that boda bodas and tuk tuk registration in the past year rose by 22,172 units, defying the tough economic times that hit most Kenyans due to the pandemic.
Citing the example of how well Rwanda’s boda boda industry is run, Mr Kenyatta called on the riders to observe the highest standards of discipline at all times.
In neighboring Rwanda, the helmet of each rider and their passenger bears a unique identification number, which is also printed on the driver’s jacket and the motorcycle, too.
Further, in Kigali, the law requires that every motorcycle bears a GPS locator for easy traceability in the event that a crime occurs.
Rwanda’s boda boda industry is run by roughly 18 Saccos, which liaise with the traffic police to ensure riders adhere to the law, including traffic regulations.
Across Kenya, major hospitals have since set up trauma centres to accommodate the rising number of seriously injured riders and passengers, putting extra weight on Kenya’s health budget.
In 2019, there was a 41 percent surge in boda boda accidents where 348 passengers lost their lives, compared to 247 reported dead in 2018.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with the boda boda riders at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru ICT termed the sector as very important but also called for discipline and order in their operations.
“We hope we will work with you closely to make sure we not only weed out these bad elements but that we now grow this sector so that in continues to expand. The time that we started around 2020 you were about 1.7 million riders but now you are 2.4 million riders so this sector is growing but if you allow these bad elements, it is going to mess up a sector that can transform this country in a very big way,” Mr Mucheru stated.