State and politicians differ on boda boda crackdown

Boda boda crackdown

Motorcycles are loaded onto a recovery vehicle in Nakuru city on March 10, 2022, as the police implement a nationwide crackdown on non-compliant boda bodas and public transport sector.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

The government has pledged to offer medical insurance to boda bodas while insisting the ongoing crackdown against rogue riders will continue.

The statement came as anti-crackdown protests broke out in some parts of the country.

Boda boda riders engaged police in running battles, saying they are being unfairly targeted and punished. They also accuse security organs of using excessive force against them.

Protests have been witnessed in Kirinyaga, Kisumu, Embu counties.

Riders also fought police in Dandora, Mathare and Githurai estates, Nairobi.

The motorcycles of those arrested have to undergo roadworthiness inspection. The riders must also provide proof of being licensed.

The sudden and large-scale operation against riders who do not have necessary requirements allowing them to operate is being carried out on the orders of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Online registration

It has paralysed an industry that employs at least 2.4 million people.

Government officials say if they let things remain as they are, there is a risk of the industry being taken over by militarised gangs that can even take on formal structures of the state.

“Everyone knows the boda boda industry is fantastic. Which government can do away with a sector that employs millions of people? The amount of money that moves in the sector is incredible. We are talking of 22 million rides a day,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told journalists in Nairobi yesterday.

“There is, however, no way short of a radical reorganisation, institutionalisation, reorganisation and formalisation of the sector. Otherwise, it is hell awaiting us. The woman who was undressed would have been anyone.”

Dr Matiang’i’s stand comes as the issue takes a political angle, with leaders accusing the government punishing millions of people for a crime committed by a handful of criminals.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga asked President Kenyatta and the government to find other ways of regulating boda bodas and dealing with criminals in the industry.

“I have told the President that punishment should be on individual criminals, not everyone in that sector,” Mr Odinga said at a political rally in Kisumu yesterday.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro also urged the government to deal with the criminals and spare law-abiding riders.

“We are distraught and shocked by the barbaric incident on Wangari Mathai Road. It was stupid and crude. However, we must avoid blanket condemnation. Not all boda bodas committed the crime,” Mr Nyoro said.

In response to the calls, Dr Matiang’i demanded to be told why politicians are against the ongoing crackdown but not offering any solutions.

Boda bodas are the biggest cause of accidents on Kenyan roads, according to the National Crime Research Centre.

They are involved in 52 per cent of robberies with violence, 66 per cent of breaches of public order and are used in the distribution and sale of 49 per cent of banned substances, including drugs.

A task force that was supposed to provide a blueprint for the regulation of the sector, and whose report was later hijacked by politicians, found out that 60 per cent of boda bodas are not registered or licensed.

Highway Code

The report also established that a staggering 70 per cent of boda bodas are not trained on the Highway Code or how to professionally ride a motorcycle.

Additionally, 65 per cent are riding motorcycles that are neither insured nor registered.

“Popular is not always right. This is the same thing we went through with (radio and TV) digital migration. I was called all sorts of names but we migrated,” Dr Matiang’i said.

“We are going all the way. We will start the registration on March 21. The President has waived the registration fee. If someone tells you to go and get registered and you refuse, what is your problem?”

According to the Cabinet Secretary, there are 250 boda boda saccos in the country.

Getting them to register and having riders registered like it happened in the matatu sector will lead to self-regulation which in turn will get rid of criminals in the industry, the government says.

“We insist on registration so as to have a digital record. It will not be easy for anyone who commits a crime,” the minister added.

“We will synchronise National Transport and Safety Authority and National Health Insurance Fund databases for those who register. It will be of great help because that means one can easily get treated in case of an accident.”