A burning miraa vehicle

A miraa vehicle which was burnt by angry Kirinyaga residents after it hit and killed a bodaboda rider.

| File | Nation Media Group

Bodaboda riders, miraa vehicle drivers clash as hit-and-run death toll rises

To survive anywhere along the Meru-Embu-Mwea-Nairobi highway, residents and traders have come to develop a sixth sense, which entails always being on the lookout for speeding pick-ups ferrying miraa from Meru and Probox station wagons ferrying muguka from Embu.

This extra instinct is so critical it sometimes draws the line between life and death, as Mr Jeremiah Kariithi, who is battling cancer, attests.

Mr Kariithi’s wife, the family’s sole breadwinner, was killed by a speeding miraa vehicle at Ngundune shopping centre in Tigania West, Meru County on November 23 last year.

Mr Kariithi’s wife, Joanina, was on her way to pay a Sh40,000 hospital bill at the Consolata Kiirua Mission hospital.

She opted to take a bodaboda and family friend Jackson Kobia was hired to ferry her to the hospital.

Mr Jeremiah Kariithi

Mr Jeremiah Kariithi holding the photo of his wife, Joanina Kainda (right), who was killed when a speeding miraa vehicle driver knocked down a bodaboda on which she was riding in Ngundune, Tigania West on November 23, 2020.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete | Nation Media Group

Knocked off the road

As they wound their way towards Kiirua, some 15km from Meru town, the speeding vehicle, as is their notorious norm, emerged from a blind corner and knocked the two off the road.

The rider, Kobia, died on the spot while Joanina was rushed to Meru Level Five Hospital in critical condition.

She succumbed to injuries two days later.

More saddening is that instead of helping the victims, one of the first people to come to the scene of the accident stole the money Joanina had on her.

Stole handbag

“A woman who was among those who came to the scene stole my wife's handbag. Joanina pleaded with her not to take away the money as it was to pay for a patient's treatment but she just took off with the cash,” Mr Kariithi told the Nation.

The driver of the vehicle that hit them was apprehended three days later and charged with the offence, before being released on bond.

As the case drags on in the corridors of justice, Mr Kariithi has to fend for his two daughters while still battling cancer.

“I have to fight and stay alive because my children need me. Those vehicles took away so much from us and I know many other families feel the same kind of pain,” he said emotionally.

Joanina was an addition to growing statistics of people who die every year at the hands of a group of road users who unapologetically put money before life.

Miraa pick-up

A pick-up truck transporting miraa.

Photo credit: File | Fation Media Group

Leading killer

Known for their recklessness and complete disregard for the law, miraa carriers have become a leading killer along the Meru- Nairobi highway.

The muguka station wagon drivers drive at high speeds, honking and with full headlights on, scaring many motorists off the road as they weave into and out of lanes.

Anyone who tries to protest by either flashing warning lights or honking gets very rude signs from the mainly young men who drive the vans, sometimes precariously overtaking a long line of vehicles on the left-side pavement.

Bodaboda riders

While pedestrians and other motorists are badly affected by the daredevil antics of those behind the wheels of the pick-ups and station wagons, it is the bodaboda riders who bear the brunt of these rogue drivers.

“Every year we bury close to 30 or 40 of our colleagues, all killed by miraa carriers. Just between PI area and Makutano, there are many widows because of these vehicles,” Kirinyaga Boda Boda Association Chairman Stephen Mururia told the Nation.

And now trouble is brewing between two groups of road users who are known for their unruly behaviour on the roads.

As police look the other way as the menace that is the miraa and muguka vehicles festers, bodaboda riders especially in Mwea, Kirinyaga County have opted to take matters into their own hands.

Bodaboda riders

Bodaboda riders at the scene where a Probox vehicle ferrying miraa was torched after knocking down their colleague at Kapingazi bridge along the Embu-Kiritiri road.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Torching miraa vehicles

Any time a miraa vehicle causes an accident along the Mwea route, bodaboda riders torch it.

“This is what happens when the government fails to play its part to tame these people. Riders will be forced to tighten the noose and that means more vehicles will be burned and drivers could even be killed. We do not want to get to that point because we respect the rule of law,” Mr Mururia said.

Last week, a group of bodaboda riders mounted a roadblock at Nice Digital City in Mwea, which they claimed was aimed at warning miraa transporters against speeding.

Police inaction

The feud has been worsened by police inaction, with the riders accusing law enforcers of disregarding their safety and that of road users by allowing the miraa carriers to continue operating in impunity.

“Police cannot continue watching by like scarecrows while people die every other day. It is their responsibility to tame these vehicles once and for all,” Mr Mururia said.