Narrow escape from death in hands of boda boda riders

Boda boda riders

Boda boda riders in a traffic jam in Eldoret town.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Last weekend, I heard a horrifying story. A relative had travelled to Eldoret for work when a motorcycle rammed his car from behind.

As is expected in such a case, he stopped and got out of his car to inspect the damage. It wasn’t a serious accident because the boda boda rider, though shaken, wasn’t hurt, and the only damage he could see on the motorcycle was a dented bumper. Before he could utter a word, he was surrounded by a large group of angry and aggressive boda boda riders baying for his blood.

How dare he hit one of their own, they demanded, accusing him and his fellow “watu wa private” of being arrogant and behaving as if the roads were made for only them. He would pay, they told him. Shocked and beginning to panic, he tried to point out that the rider was the one in the wrong, but his pleas were drowned out by the worked-up mob.

 By then, they had begun to rough him up. Out of nowhere, a car tyre appeared and was forced over his shoulders. They were going to burn him alive. What saved him was an elderly man who managed to push his way through the charged throng and convince them that what they planned to do was unjust, that he had seen the accident happen and that the man with a tyre imprisoning his arms wasn’t to blame.

This relative would later learn that the elderly man was well-known and respected in the area. That, and police arriving many minutes later, is what saved him from mob justice that day. Once in a while, he told us, he gets nightmares triggered by that dreadful incident.


I’m sure that there is at least one person reading this who has a story, an unpleasant one, from his or her experience with a boda boda rider. Several times, I have witnessed them intimidate motorists who are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident with one of their own. It is as if they are always lurking around the corner waiting for such an accident to happen. It needs no saying that the rule of law doesn’t apply to them — it shows in the disregard with which they break traffic rules with impunity.

And no, traffic lights weren’t made for them, so while drivers of vehicles patiently wait behind a red light, they zoom past it like bats out of hell, everything and everyone be damned, even the police controlling traffic.

That incident I narrated up there spoke of an alarming lack of humanity. If there is an apt example of what inhumanity looks like, that was it. That you would so casually be ready to take another man’s life is callousness of the highest order.

No doubt, boda bodas are a source of livelihood for thousands of Kenyans, and are a saving grace for many who rely on them for their daily transport needs, however, there is something seriously wrong with this sector, which started off on the wrong footing and has been steadily hurtling downhill since.

According to recent statistics, motorcycles kill more people than vehicles, a factor that could partly be explained by the fact that most riders learn on the job, hence the recklessness we observe on a daily basis on our roads. And have you noticed that the rule that demanded pillion passengers wear helmets is no longer enforced?

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