Though a great provider of employment to the youth, bodaboda sector has of late earned a dubious reputation as the epitome of lawlessness and impunity on the Kenyan roads.
Infamous for their “spur of the moment rage” that has seen many motorists lose their vehicles and property at their hands no matter the offending party, members of this sector have been associated with numerous crimes.
Among the wrong doings they are ill-reputed for are defilement, mob (in)justice and rampant recklessness resulting to accidents, a behaviour largely attributed to the fact that the sector has, for a long time, lacked self -help groups like SACCOs.
With increased unemployment rates in Kenya, over 80 per cent of youths have resorted to bodaboda business as a livelihood with Siaya township ward alone having 2,000 registered bodaboda operators.
The influx into this booming sector has been mainly propelled by reasons such as the affordability of the motorcycles, few legal requirements and easy maintenance.
Earlier this year, the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai warned troublemaker riders due to their continued culture of impugned lawlessness and disregard for the status quo.
The chairman of Siaya Township Bodaboda Association, Mr. George Oduor says that mandatory registration of all bodaboda operators would bring some sense of accountability and formality to the growing transport sector.
“If all bodaboda operators were registered, it would be easy to track and apprehend the rogue operatives who engage in criminal activities that spoil our name,” Oduor reiterated, adding, their association detests lawlessness, and that sometimes bodaboda operators take the fall for crimes committed by other private motorcycle owners.
In an interview with Kenya News Agency, he said they have continually advised their members to refrain from subjecting motorists and other members of the public to mob (in)justice, stressing that those caught in the act of lynching innocent citizens will be apprehended and prosecuted.
Another issue that has continuously dragged the name bodaboda operators into the mud is sexual relationships with underage girls, majority being school-going children.
The Sexual Offences Act of Kenya (2006) stipulates: “Any act of sex with a minor is deemed defilement, a strict liability offence, punishable by law.”
David Ochieng, a bodaboda operator in Siaya town, attributes the sexual offences to the readily available cash that motorists have which they use to lure the minors into the act.
“Unlike older women who have sound judgment and informed consent, school-going girls are easy to manipulate with few goodies, thereby falling prey to bodaboda operator’s tricks on them,” he says.
The Siaya township bodaboda association advises that, registration of operators in registered SACCOs and apprehending motorists who lack insurance may be a way to restrain offenders and reduce criminal activities related to this sector.
Studies reveal that in 2019, 348 passenger and 725 rider deaths were incurred as a result of motorcycle accidents in the country. These were mainly caused by negligence of traffic rules and road safety measures.
Siaya police attributes the high number of accidents involving motor cycle taxi operators on lack of formal training for those engaging in the business.
“Most of our bodaboda operators are not formally trained and do not have licenses. They have not even insured their motorcycles against accidents,” says Siaya deputy sub county police commander, Mr. Charles Odhiambo.
Odhiambo says that lack of adequate training and licensing of motorists have resulted to ignorance of road safety rules amplifying the probability of accidents.
He says that most motor cyclists rely on home based training or self-training which does not give them knowledge on traffic rules and exposure on busy roads and highways.
The police commander however says that the department was committed to ridding the roads of unqualified motorists and urged the operators to ensure they are well trained and licensed before taking to the road.
by Philip Onyango