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Boda boda riders demand police release motorcycles

Some of the impounded motorcycles at Kisii Central Police Station during a national crackdown on boda boda operators last week [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Boda boda riders now want all motorcycles impounded by the police during the crackdown to be returned to the owners.

The riders, most of whom were charged in court and have already paid the Sh35,000 fine, said they were servicing loans for the motorcycles lying in various police stations.

Those interviewed said they didn’t see a reason why the motorcycles have not been released despite a directive to have the police stop the crackdown to pave way for structured engagements between players in the boda boda industry and the government agencies.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a countrywide crackdown on rogue boda boda riders to streamline the sector following an incident where a female motorist was sexually harassed by the riders along Wangari Maathai Road in Nairobi last week.

However, the directive was lifted following its condemnation by political leaders including Deputy President William and ODM leader Raila Odinga, who demanded that police hunt down and punish suspected rogue ones instead of punishing all the riders.

In Mombasa County’s Kisauni area, Ali Salim said some of his colleagues have not collected their motorbikes from the police stations.

“Some of my friends whose motorbikes were impounded have not gone to the police station to collect their bikes in fear of being told to fulfil some conditions,” said Salim.

David Makhalanji, a boda boda rider based in Kakamega town added: “We urge the police to release the impounded motorcycles. The owners are suffering since that is their only source of income.”

Yesterday, Samuel Maina, who is a boda boda operator in Kakamega commended the government’s decision to lift the crackdown.

“I could hardly do anything because there were police officers everywhere, yet some of the riders pay the motorcycle owners between Sh300 and Sh500 every day but the crackdown crippled everything,” said Maina.

In an earlier meeting with boda boda riders in Kakamega town, former senator Boni Khalwale urged the President to deal with rogue operators individually.

“Criminalising all the riders is tantamount to setting the stage for chaos, boda boda industry contributes heavily to the country’s economy,” said Dr Khalwale.

 Kakamega Central Police Commander Valerian Obore had earlier indicated that boda boda arrested in the crackdown had violated traffic rules including riding without recommended gear including helmets.

In Bungoma, County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti urged boda boda riders to uphold professionalism. He urged them to resist any attempts by politicians to use them in causing chaos at political events.

Homa Bay Bodaboda Association chairman, Mr Ken Dede said the lifting of the ban was a good move. “The ban on the crackdown has cushioned all our 65,000 members from operating in fear,” Dede said. In Kisii, the boda boda operations are back to their normalcy; carrying excess passengers and riding on the wrong lanes. 

Police and boda boda operators in the North Rift said the nationwide crackdown targeting the sector has managed to clamp down on lawlessness on roads.

Dan Cheruiyot, a boda boda operator in Eldoret town, said that the police crackdown was effective, adding that those who were compliant with the law had nothing to fear. Uasin Gishu County Commander Ayub Gitonga said some arrests were made and dozens of boda boda operators were charged in court over non-compliance.

“We arraigned some of the riders who were found on the wrong side of the law. Some didn’t have a licence and lacked helmets,” said Mr Gitonga.

Nandi central OCPD Doris Chemoss, over 400 riders were trained on the traffic regulations to minimize accidents on roads. In Nakuru, bodaboda operators are slowly returning to the Central Business District after the crackdown was halted, with some pledging not to carry more than one passenger.