There are at least 300 boda boda operators in Lamu Island alone, a situation that could lead to Lamu Island losing its status as a World Heritage site. The decreasing Swahili culture aura and high influx of motorcycles are slowly eroding the tourism destination profile of the archipelago.
Speaking at Sunsail hotel in Lamu Island during a stakeholders meeting that constituted of national and county governments’ officials as well Lamu boda boda operators’ association, Tourism and Public Service management officer Twaha Salim stated that the boda boda situation in Lamu needs to be reined in lest it completely affect tourism to the point of no return.
“Boda boda operators need to accept the regulations put in place by the Lamu municipality as being a middle ground for them to operate as well as not affect tourism and movement within Lamu old town’s narrow streets,” Salim stated, adding that the high number of operators have become a public nuisance especially within Old Town.
“Residents and tourists alike no longer feel comfortable moving around Old town, and accidents have risen as well due to pedestrians having to compete with boda boda operators for space within the narrow streets,” he stated.
Lamu Municipality has already set regulations for speed limits to be maintained at 10 to 20 kilometres per hour within the Lamu Old town and also warned the operators against hooting and putting loud music.
There are also growing concerns among county and national government officials over the high number of underage boys who have dropped out of school to engage in boda boda business.
“Anyone operating boda bodas within Lamu should have an ID and wear proper gear,” Lamu West Deputy County Commissioner Michael Yator speaking at the forum stated.
Yator said besides the bylaws that are needed to regulate operations, boda boda sector also needs to put in place insurance, training and licensing as a prerequisite needed to regulate the sector.
Lamu West OCPD Juma Londo also noted that Lamu Island boda boda operators especially do not wear closed shoes, helmets and reflectors leading to a high increase in boda boda accidents’ casualties in Lamu’s King Fahd referral hospital.
“The boda boda riders should also have a Sacco as well as clearly marked IDs, indicating their exact area of operation,” Londo added.
The boda boda operators are now only allowed to operate within two drop-off and pick up points within Lamu Old Town; Milano and Mkomani stages.
During a recent visit to Lamu, Sports and Culture CS Amina Mohammed raised concern over the growing number boda boda operators that she noted had played a major part in UNESCO’s decision to review Lamu status as a World Heritage site.
by Husna Muhdhar/ Amenya Ochieng