Boda Boda Sector’s Struggle: Politics vs. Road Safety

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The Vice chairperson of the Central Region Boda Boda Association, Moses Gyaviira, has expressed concern about the ongoing politicization of the boda boda sector. According to him, this political interference has caused disarray within the industry, resulting in some riders enjoying impunity while the less fortunate face the full force of the law.

Mr. Gyaviira raised his concerns during a meeting of boda boda leaders in Kampala. The gathering’s primary agenda was to discuss the dissemination of information regarding road safety regulations and addressing behavioral factors that contribute to road accidents.

His counterpart, Fred Kateregga, echoed similar sentiments, highlighting that politicians tend to only engage with motorcyclists during election campaigns, paying little attention to the industry’s underlying issues.

Mr. Kateregga went on to criticize politicians and the government for introducing regulations to govern the boda boda sector but inadvertently exacerbating the situation. He explained that when motorcyclists violate traffic laws or cause accidents, their motorcycles are impounded, only to be swiftly released due to political intervention. This interference often shields certain riders from the consequences of their actions, perpetuating lawlessness.

Both Gyaviira and Kateregga’s pleas come in the wake of the government’s release of new road safety regulations designed to address the key behavioral risk factors and reduce road accidents nationwide.

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Cuthbert Isingoma, representing the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) and other civil society organizations under the Road Safety Advocacy Coalition in Uganda (ROSACU), outlined that these new regulations aim to help the government enforce the laws outlined in the Traffic and Road Safety Act. This act was amended in 2020, followed by a comprehensive review of existing regulations and the formulation of new ones to ensure the full implementation of the law.

Isingoma emphasized that the revised regulations, while not intended as penalties, are designed to establish order and discipline on the roads across all sectors. The goal is to significantly decrease the occurrence of road accidents.

The revised regulations include the introduction of a demerit points system as a road safety intervention. This system supplements the express penalty scheme, aimed at improving driver behavior. Additionally, the regulations address the provision of transport services by digital ride-sharing companies like Uber, Bolt, and Safe Boda or SafeCar. These companies are now required to obtain licenses from the Ministry of Works and Transport. Other provisions seek to clarify existing laws related to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, among other changes.

Esther Sharon Busiku, the Project Lead for Road Safety at the Centre for Policy Analysis, emphasized that in addition to introducing new regulations, it is crucial for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to play a role in spreading awareness and reducing road accidents. She noted that government budgets allocated for road safety initiatives are often constrained due to factors like delayed disbursement of funds or the diversion of allocated resources to other sectors, despite the persistent loss of lives on the roads.

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