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Why boda boda are united in anger, hope and despair

By Barrack Muluka | July 17th 2021

A police officer attached to Pangani Police station address a section of boda boda operators in Pangani who had earlier in the day protested increased cases of police harassment and insecurity in the area.[David Njaaga,Standard]

Kenya’s boda boda fraternity typifies the anger, hate and frustration that is the life blood in the country. Ours is a nation whose self-seeking political class does not give a damn to the fate of its youth.

In the fullness of time, a disillusioned youthful population assembled around the motorbike as its only hope, begins teeming with undefined anger.

The anger lacks definition because it is against anything, everything and everybody, without clear knowledge of why. 

Yet it is not difficult to tell why. Talk to some of them, as I have done. Boda boda riders are a fraternity of hope and despair, rolled into one.

They are a sorority of angry people, who feel betrayed, forgotten and unappreciated by their country.

They have hoped for better, but settled for worse, in the absence of much else. They are a rich composition of university graduates and school dropouts.

There are high school graduates and dropouts alike. Then there are those who dropped out of primary school and some have never been in a classroom.

They are united in a bond of anger, hope and despair. 

Hence, they know no laws and no order, except the laws and order of standing with one another.

Woe unto you, should you have the misfortune of an encounter with them. They will eat you alive.

They break all traffic regulations before the eyes and nose of traffic police officers. There is nothing officers can do. If they arrest one, the rest will overwhelm them in less time than it takes to say the words ‘boda boda.’  

They can raid any police station, to release one of their own. They can equally claim a suspect from police cells, display him in the streets and set him on fire, alive.

And nothing happens. It is a horror story of these latter day Carbonari Charcoal Burners. They burn people and vehicles at will.

Beware Kenya, there could be a ‘revolution’ in the making. If it comes, it will be from this class.

But, like all ‘revolutions’ by the lumpen proletariat, it will have no direction. It will be a disorderly, wasteful insurrection.  

Why, here is the one country where being elected to office is more important than everything else. The leadership, which is essentially in the hands of a political rogue class, navigates its way through the country by deception.

Like all deceivers, what counts is the present moment. One lie covers up for the one before. Accordingly, we are the one hundred percent transition from primary to high school nation. Yet there is not even a ten per cent transition to the wage labour market. 

We sell hope and deliver frustration. At the end of the cycle, you produce pseudo intellectuals whom nobody is prepared to absorb into the labour market.

Someone gives them a motorbike, ‘to hold on to as they wait for something better.’ None comes. Yet there is still something magical, chic and hopeful.

You stand out as a beacon of hope in the crowd of the frustrated. At least you have some income. 

Young people with no role models of graduates from high school and college fall out, to ride the bikes. If the university will only lead you to the bike, you might as well join in now.

The retiree sees his future in owning a ‘fleet,’ to lease out daily. The policeman has a couple of his own, and the local teacher and chief too. Even the magistrate has two and the court clerk four. So, where will you take these people?

The brotherhood of the frustrated angry is only epitomised in the public transport bikers. Beware Kenya’s political top brass.

Beware, the slumbering middle class. An insurrection that will shame Italy’s Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Thousand in 1860 is on the way. That is unless the political leadership wakes up to deliver the hope it keeps promising and never delivering. You will soon run out of tricks.  

The writer is a strategic communications advisor. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke

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