President Museveni’s pledge to have motorcycle operations in the country streamlined is timely. Motorcyclists have been cast in bad light with cases of killers stalking victims and making a quick getaway on motorcycles.
Nearly half a dozen prominent Muslim clerics, a prosecutor, and an assistant police chief have been killed in the last two years with their assassins riding motorcycles for the missions.
These series of unsolved killings involving motorcyclists have given boda boda or motorcycle the taxi industry a wicked reputation, with citizens unable to tell apart hired killers on motorcycles from boda boda taxi riders.
So Mr Museveni’s directive to have no riders wear hoods, but get new helmets with numbers visible even at night, is only part solution to a mega problem. And here is why it won’t be easy.
First, this won’t be the first move by government to attempt to introduce order to the popular light transport industry. Similar moves were made in 2013, but have been frustrated. Rival agencies with vested political and security interests have fought to own the operations.
Control of the industry is a complex fight between Kampala City Capital Authority (KCCA), its political leaders, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and security agencies. Second, the motorbike taxis, which number about 200,000 in the city and its suburbs, are unregulated. The cyclists have run for more than 15 years in open disregard of The Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998. They have blatantly violated traffic signs, pedestrian crossings, speed restrictions, and one-way traffic orders and rules on use of reflector jackets and helmets.
But Mr Museveni’s move has more urgency and carries the force of an executive order. It also comes hot on the heels of the brutal killing of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his brother and bodyguard Saidi Buga, on the outskirts of Kampala only last Friday.
But even for this to succeed, Mr Museveni should first beat into line the rival agencies and coordinate them to quickly push through and enforce the move.
He, through KCCA as the mandated technical agency, should also push for a comprehensive code of conduct for the taxi cyclists; build database of the riders, gazette stages and work on traffic guidelines to create sanity and guarantee public transport safety.
This will require that KCCA consults URA, boda boda groups, the police and sister security agencies to forge a win-win solution to avoid a violent clash similar to one between boda boda and KCCA law enforcers in September 2013.
On the whole, Mr Museveni’s order on boda boda is a move long overdue and should be enforced and quickly.