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Regulate boda boda sector to save lives

Derrick Macharia Githinji was set to graduate tomorrow with a degree in Communication after four years of study. But he will not! Instead his body is lying on the cold floor of the morgue waiting for his last moments.

At their home in Ruiru, the tent set up to provide a shade for his graduation ceremony will, instead, host his funeral planning committee. This young man set to bring his talent and knowledge to the media world will never tune to a media station. It is a dream snuffed off.

For four years he laboured away waiting for the crowning moment. That moment was beckoning when Githinji retreated to his home to prepare. His mother sent him to the shops nearby from which he never returned.

A rogue motorbike driver trying to out speed another rogue motorbike knocked him down. The second motorbike ran over his body. First responders did their best to save his life but it was too late.

A debate is raging over what to do with bodaboda operators who have turned the streets, the by ways and paths into their playground. They move in packs like hounds barking at every shadow, honouring the law of the jungle and daring anybody to raise a finger.

In this, they have been joined by the political class who, with the glitter of political office beckoning, and the vote of the boda boda riders seen as a sure passage to the coveted perks treat the law-abiding citizens like Derrick as dispensable inconvenience. 

The Interior Cabinet secretary has mooted regulation of the sector but it has remained that — work in progress. Whatever he comes up with will face opposition from the political class for whom the welfare and safety of citizens is not a priority. In the meantime, Derrick and others pay with their lives.

  When the budget statement proposed mandatory insurance for the sector, a move that on paper could benefit both the drivers and their passengers and victims, the politicians instead saw an opportunity to score points. The less said about this the better for now.

There is a positive side to boda boda: employment, quick and cheap ride, among others. But every coin has two sides. The sector harbours criminal gangs, lawlessness, recklessness, economic drain as the riders hardly pay their fair share of tax. It would not be too bad if the story stopped there. But there is more.

Many hospitals have wards set aside purely to attend to victims of the boda boda menace. Many are permanently maimed following boda boda accidents and need long-term attention. Bodaboda can be made orderly and safe, but there must be a will.

Human beings are creations of habit and if the sector was streamlined then the riders would be forced to observe regulations and contribute to the economy. Unfortunately, to do that we must first deal with our politicians who are tasked with setting up regulations.

Derrick’s body lies in the cold while his age mates and friends celebrate their academic achievements. His family joins the thousands of Kenyans who nurse injuries, infirmities, pain and heartbreak as a consequence of these riders. A politician will show up on Derrick’s journey of sorrow to pledge some action.

But it will only be crocodile tears. Once the young man’s body will be well secured, politicians will settle on the familiar platitudes of securing the boda boda jobs.  We cannot chew and walk simultaneously. At some point somebody has to say that enough is enough.— The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University.

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