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Rights abuses imminent as leaders advocate for revenge

Targeted: Boda boda cyclists have been wrongly accused of harbouring within them wrong elements
Targeted: Boda boda cyclists have been wrongly accused of harbouring within them wrong elements

In the aftermath of the violent death of former AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the highest ranking police officer to have been assassinated since independence, leading politicians have made statements that have been interpreted as a call for violent reaction.

While eulogizing Andrew Felix Kaweesi recently, President Yoweri Museveni urged motorists to get out of their vehicles and ‘sort out issues’ with motorcyclists they may suspect to be trailing them.

But the President’s statement has since sparked outrage as a call for violence that is likely to worsen the already sour relationship between motorists and boda boda cyclists.

Many observers argue that the President’s comment is likely to encourage hundreds if not thousands of motorists as well as boda men to obtain and move with killer weapons like guns, machetes and iron bars which they can use either to ‘sort out’ those they suspect harboring  ill intentions or simply as a defence mechanism.

Emanuel Muwanga, the Vice President of the 2010 Association one of the leading Bodaboda factions across Kampala and Wakiso told The Sunrise that the President’s statement ignores the plight of boda boda riders who have been at the receiving end of most of the abuses at the hands of motorists.

“While the president is talking about bodas following motorists, he is forgetting that  there have been many instances when motorist themselves have been found guilty of trailing boda boda riders and actually harming and killing many of our colleagues in the past,” said Muwanga.

Muwanga further narrates that in 2010, at Wattuba village in Wakiso District, a boda boder rider narrowly survived death after unknown assailants who were trailing him in a Toyota premio left him half dead and run away with his motor cycle in the wee hours of the morning,

“Motorists particularly taxi drivers have since been vowing to kill us in addition to mistreating us as fellow road users. That is why we cant have any mercy each time we get an opportunity to avenge ourselves,” said one boda boda rider who asked for anonymity at Keti falawo, in Kawempe zone this week.

Indeed, perhaps as evidence of fanned flames of violence, one well known Ugandan and journalist Andrew Mwenda this week narrowly survived being lynched in Mukono after he allegedly knocked down a boda boda cyclist.

In a similar incident, local crime preventers in Angola village, also in Kawempe division, had to act extra bravely to save another motorist who was intercepted by boda boda cyclists after he knocked down one of them.

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago criticised President Museveni’s comments as reckless and has called him to make plain what he meant with a view to prevent similar human rights abuses in an already fluid and tensed up atmosphere in the country.

“He is advocating for mayhem, chaos and anarchy. There must be rule of law in this country. There must be order. It can’t be everybody taking charge of themselves, sorting things in the streets,” Lukwago said.

Balaam Turyamureeba, a cyclist at Dewinton road in Kampala, could not hide his fear for riding anywhere near any speeding car since the death of Kaweesi calling for caution in the industry.

He argued that in a city that is filled with an estimated million boda bodas, any attempt to associate the use of boda boda with ill intent is bound to cause chaos since there simply are so many of them.

“Until recently, we have been having clients who would tell us to chase upcountry buses which they want to board until we catch up with them and they would pay us good money. But not anymore. ” Turyamureeba said

But in a positive reaction, the boda boda 2010 leadership has vowed to crack the whip within and around the city towards all extra ordinary motor cycles which they say are being used to commit gun crimes causing a bad name to their trade.

“It is unfortunate that even when politicians like president Museveni know very well that it is a different type of motorcycles that is being used to commit such crimes, rather than our ordinary ones like Bajaj, they lump them all together as boda bodas as if in a conspiracy to dent our industry,”  Muwanga wondered.

Meanwhile Lukwago has heaped blame on senior Security Officials including Gen. Salim Saleh and Security Minister Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, as being behind the current boda boda mess in the city.

Addressing journalists at his office last week, Lukwago said Saleh, Gen. Tumukunde, the minister for security, and Police Chief Gen. Kale Kayihura, have frustrated all attempts to regulate the boda boda business in Kampala.

“Incidentally, even this ongoing debate is unfortunately not focused on addressing the challenges in this industry(referring to boda bodas ). In fact I am afraid it may result into unfortunate actions that may be taken against boda boda motorcyclists in the country,” Lukwago said promising to introduce a law to streamline the industry in the nearest future.

 

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