Understanding the rise and fall of Boda Boda 2010

Tuesday January 23 2018

Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba 

By Nicholas Sengoba

Until recently, Abdullah Kitatta, the controversial head of motor cyclists commercial transport organisation known as Boda Boda 2010, was untouchable. Now he is in the coolers.
This group is allied to the Uganda Police Force to the extent that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has praised them on several occasions for helping secure the country.

Some people allege that it is a gang of vigilantes, who venture into crime but are protected by the authorities because they openly subscribe to the ruling NRM party. That they are also the foot soldiers who disrupt opposition rallies, hound and beat up opposition supporters to create breathing space for the ruling party.

The last time they made major news was when they vowed to beat up opposition politicians and all those who took exception to the amendment to remove age limit. They were then captured on television accosting school children (and thoroughly beating up their teacher), simply because they were clad in red; the adopted colour of those opposed to the lifting of the age limit. Oh yes, they bragged about it on camera and warned any police officer who was not compliant of the consequences of their displeasure.

The story of bad guys working with the cops is not a rare one let alone one limited to banana republics like Uganda. Every security agency from Mosad, to CIA/FBI to KGB to MI5, has its share of well-organised bad eggs.

Such guys are very useful in several instances. If you are going to spy on the devil in hell, you don’t send your angels in eye blinding white robes with their wings spread out. You employ fiends of similar ilk to interact with Lucifer and get to know his mind then you plan how to strike him or defend yourself.
These guys help you go around the slow motion of the wheels of justice. You may use them to ‘rob’ someone of his car, kidnap their child or use pretty women to lure them to bed and in their confidence get information or take their nude pictures as they dose off after receiving sexual healing. Then you blackmail.

This has been part of the art of espionage from the beginning of time. Books like, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence by John D. Marks and Victor Marchetti or Gideon’s spies, The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas, are useful of the subject.
But to do this dirty work well, you need good training so that you never get to blow your cover and get known as a bad egg. You may also need to integrate it in your profession for the sake of effectiveness through concealment.

A person dealing in money transfers reports on those, who have received money that is potentially from criminals or terrorists. A teacher listens to children who tell her the visitors they had over the weekend and the guns they left at home. Then the authorities are informed accordingly.
The trouble with the version we have in autocratic and authoritarian situations is that they are not trained and are misused for the perpetuation of those in power.

Ours are picked from the lowest layers of society and come to the table with rural excitement. A lowly boda boda rider or special hire driver, who came to town only the other day finds himself in the company of a ‘whole’ IGP. (By the way I am sure you notice that many boda boda riders have military boots and always endeavour to engage pillion passengers in conversations to do with politics and how the regime has made life very hard.)

He is then used on all sorts of missions to beat up the opposition, vandalise their property, maim them and nothing happens to him. He feels very powerful, for he views himself as a king maker of sorts.
With time, he also uses his new found power as a gun for hire. He will help those, who pay him to settle scores. Lastly he also carries out his own missions for self-enrichment. He does all this with the help of the access he has with the top guns in security. He is untouchable and takes all sorts of risky missions.

The trouble with these sorts of people and our arrangement where institutions such as the police are barely functional, is that many power centres develop over time with the numerous agencies that keep on popping up. CIID, JATT, Flying Squad etc will have their own people in the field. With time, the agents of the different power centres begin to cross into each other’s territories and clash. You end up with anarchy.

When this happens you need to go back to the drawing board and cull the legions bringing order and setting new rules before they become too powerful a force to reckon with and a law unto themselves. That is where Boda Boda 2010 finds itself today.

Such people are not punished for being necessarily bad. Autocratic situations don’t welcome violent organised armed groups to thrive except the ones firmly controlled by the state like the national army and the police.
Also they are dealt with because those who used them do not want to accept that they owe them. If you remember the rise and fall of UTODA, you will understand the predicament of Boda Boda 2010.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political
and social issues. [email protected]
Twitter: nsengoba