Boda boda operators have made a comeback in Lamu Old Town after being kicked out four months ago.
Last August, county officials, police, business owners and traders agreed to restrict the movement of over 400 boda boda riders in the town centre, which is listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site.
The move was aimed at preserving and protecting its status, particularly the well-preserved culture and old heritage.
But Muslim clerics and elders have complained about riders’ failure to comply with the directive, saying they are disrupting the lives of residents.
Sheikh Hamid Amana of the Mkomani mosque said that boda boda operators are flouting the movement regulations and have even devised illegal routes through residential areas and places of worship.
Mr Amana noted that unruly riders frequently interrupt prayers in mosques, forcing the faithful to halt their proceedings and allow them to pass as they play loud music on their motorbikes.
“These boda boda operators know very well that they aren’t allowed to access the Old Town centre. It’s unfortunate that some have gone ahead to breach the order. They have devised ways of squeezing through and it’s becoming very uncomfortable,” said Mr Amana.
Mr Muhashiam Famau, an elder, appealed to county officials and police to ensure the ban on boda boda operators from Old Town is enforced.
“We are aware that boda bodas were restricted to the outskirts of the town from where they are required to operate. Why are they forcing their way back into the town centre?” he said.
“These riders should know that they are putting at risk the old town’s heritage that is already under threat from immense westernisation. The local authorities shouldn’t relent on this.”
And Mr Said Seif, a historian, noted that heritage sites like Lamu Old Town should maintain their originality and resist any form of western influence especially on its architecture, culture and heritage.
Mr Seif called for a total ban on boda boda operators on Lamu Island if they keep flouting regulations.
“We don’t want the town's status to continue being disrupted just like that. We want to see those breaching the order arrested and prosecuted. The Old Town is slowly losing its sanity and we must do something about it,” said Mr Seif.
Lamu Old Town relies on traditional donkeys and handcarts to transport people and cargo.
The town is characterised by narrow alleyways and footpaths that have been architecturally designed to accommodate a small number of people walking on foot or riding donkeys at a time.