The Kampala Capital City Authority is planning to abolish stages for boda bodas in the city centre as part of its efforts to streamline public transport and reduce congestion.
KCCA spokesman Peter Kaujju said government offices, hotels and banks will under the new arrangement be no-go areas for the commercial riders.
He, however, declined to discuss the details pending official announcement, which by some accounts could happen anytime this week. A senior official familiar with the new plans said boda bodas will be prohibited from staging in the city centre areas bordered by Wandegeya, Mulago round-about via Yusuf Lule Road to Jinja Road and Warid Clock Tower junctions, and Entebbe Road up to Clock Tower (see graphic).
The riders will access the central business district only to drop off clients, but are to be banned from riding on Parliament Avenue, along which are located the Parliament, ministries of Justice and Trade as well as headquarters of the Inspectorate of Government.
Following leak of the blue-print, would-be affected boda bodas secretly met at Nakasero primary school last Wednesday where they planned measures to counter the joint KCCA-police operation to evict them, which they were told starts this morning in Wandegeya.
Mr Abdallah Kitata, the chairperson of the boda boda association, said the plans to restructure their activities are good, but they must be involved early in the preparations for it to succeed.
“We understand the industry more than anyone else. We want development in Kampala, but KCCA should collaborate with motorcyclists’ associations if they are to have this industry streamlined,” Mr Kitata said.
The planned abolition of boda boda stages comes weeks after City Hall stopped passenger service operators from picking up and dropping off commuters randomly on streets. Passengers in central Kampala can now only board or disembark at designated parks, but other transport sector players have voiced reservations about phasing out boda bodas without any feasible alternative.
Dr Fredrick Omollo a Urban Planning lecturer at Makerere University, said any attempt to de-congest the still is welcome, but must not be executed hurriedly and to the exclusion of other stakeholders.
“It is true the city needs to decongest but the solution should not be a surprise as KCCA intends it because it will create more problems --- there should be public involvement; those who use and or ride boda bodas,” he said.
The Pioneer buses, introduced two years ago for mass urban transit under a public private partnership, are yet to resume operations after unpaid bills forced the government to take them off streets. It is not clear why they are not back on the roads after both the Uganda Revenue Authority and KCCA gave owners the green light to operate.
In the interview on Sunday, Dr Omollo said: “It will be so bad of them [KCCA] to wake up and say, motorcycles can or cannot reach this area/zone without telling whoever goes there what the alternative is.”
Mr James Sekitooleko is a boda boda rider who has for the past seven years staged between the Crested Towers and Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) buildings in central Kampala.
The planned re-organisation, he says, have only filtered to them as rumours. “We have not received specific information from KCCA about what is going to happen to us but we have been told by other people that the plans to drive us out of the city have been finalised,” said Mr Sekitooleko, a diploma holder in tourism and hospitality.
Most riders this newspaper interviewed for this article said they were in the business because of lack of jobs elsewhere.
“If they say they will not allow us to work near banks, government offices and hotels, where in Kampala shall we park?” said Ssekitoleko. “I have been thinking about what do next in case we are actually kicked out of the city.”
Uganda has one of the highest unemployment rates, with joblessness among youth estimated by Labour ministry at over 70 per cent. Many school leavers have resorted to boda boda business, and bank-facilitated acquisitions plus additional purchase scheme run by Kampala’s rich and influential individuals, have brought eased ownership of motorcycles for riders.
The boda boda business, which initially started in the eastern Busia district for cross-border smuggling, became more in Kampala after President Museveni hitched a ride on one for a trip to Kololo ceremonial grounds for nomination as a 2001 presidential candidate.
In later years, the boda bodas morphed into a powerful political constituency, with the president himself or those around him regularly intervening whenever police and city authorities come hard on them for breach of traffic rules and other violations.
KCCA last year registered up to 53, 000 boda bodas, although their numbers in the city are estimated to exceed 100, 000.
The Authority planned to issue helmets, reflector jackets and assign stages for the registered boda bodas, but the scheme ran into the wall last week when Uganda National Bureau of Standards declared thousands of helmets imported for KCCA as sub-standard.
Mr Kaujju said their staff are already on the ground to delineate green and red zones, for boda boda stages and no-go area respectively.
A senior presidential aide at the weekend called for caution in KCCA’s re-organisation so that it does not disrupt travel for commuters or disadvantage the rdiers. “It’s a good plan but it should be people-centered and not something originated by the authorities and imposed on them,” said Moses Byaruhanga, a senior political assistant to President Museveni.
He denied reports he owns hundreds of motorcycles operating in the city, saying he has in the past only intervened to help the riders. He said: “Boda boda is a result of not having a better [public] transport system. Unless it [public transport system] is implemented, I think KCCA should move cautiously.”
Individuals that spoke to this newspaper appreciated City Hall’s efforts to bring orderliness in the capital, but demanded that KCCA officials should act more transparently and involved them in formulation of the plans to ease implementation.
“They should get them a gazetted area which is convenient to everyone because some people prefer them to taxis which cannot maneuver traffic jams,
Yvonne Arao, Student, MUBS