Dreaded Homa Bay bodaboda men who are law unto themselves, run the town
3 months ago, 18 Dec 09:45
Bodaboda riders have become a countrywide menace that seems to be out of control. But if recent occurrences are anything to go by, then the motorbike operators in Homa Bay town could be the most notorious and with the most dubious of reputations. They have become a law unto themselves. You cannot run for a political office in the area without consulting them or their blessings. They operate more or less like an organised gang. So much so that when you mess with one of them, you either have to relocate or risk losing your life. Even on mere suspicion, they leave a trail of destruction and death in their wake. A week ago, they torched a stationary bus belonging to Otange Bus Services after a drunk colleague of theirs rammed into it while ferrying a patron early in the morning from a night club. The rider, together with his client were seriously injured and rushed to Homa Bay County referral hospital, where the former died hours later while receiving medication. His furious colleagues were not bothered by the fact that he was on the wrong, they torched the Sh12m bus alongside passengers’ luggage. A number of passengers inside the vehicle also got injured while escaping from the fire. In the same week, another group of bodaboda operators were hired by one of the ferries that operate in Lake Victoria to help settle scores with a rival water-bus. The hired goons stoned and destroyed one of the water buses and stopped it from docking. It had to go back to Mfangano Island to avoid further damage. This incidents came against the backdrop of yet another incident of arson, in which the local riders burnt down three houses in the home of a man they claimed was involved in the murder of one of their colleagues. Most of the defilement cases in the area, too, are blamed on the riders and touts who seem to be above the law. Two weeks ago, a bodaboda rider was accused of defiling a class seven pupil in Homa Bay town. The rider, who had been ferrying the minor’s aunt to and from work daily for the last five years, it is said, turned against the teenager and sexually assaulted her in her aunt’s house. When United Nations released their report on teenage pregnancies in Kenya mid this year, bodaboda riders and touts in Homa Bay town came second after their counterparts in Narok Town in perpetuating the crime. Of the 378,397 girls aged 10 to 19 who became pregnant between July 2016 and June 2017, the UN report showered 33 per cent hail from Homa Bay, with the riders responsible for majority of the pregnancies. The bodaboda operators are now seen as a threat to security. Residents have raised concerns, with the Homa Bay Town East MCA Juma Awuor, pleading with the riders not to involve themselves with criminal activities. He said this negative reputation may lead to the banning of the means of transport, yet it was meant to create employment. Jack Nyambega, Secretary General of Homa Bay Giant Traders Association said: “We want our security personnel to decisively deal with this menace so that traders are free from the criminal acts of bodaboda operators.” According to Homa Bay County Commissioner Kassim Farrah, the bodaboda sector is no longer a business enterprise but a criminal gang. Most of the criminals arrested in the area turn out to be motor bike riders. “Today, anybody who needs criminals for hire seeks the services of bodaboda riders. During electioneering periods, majority of the goons for hire are from this lot,” said Farrah. “I have directed all security personnel in the county to ensure a crackdown on criminals who hide in the bodaboda sector. We must deal with them to streamline the sector,” said Farrah, urging well-meaning riders to help in weeding out the crooks among them. So rampant are criminal cases involving bodaboda operators that the Homa Bay sub county OCPD, Esau Ochorokodi has now banned night operations by the riders. While issuing the order, the police boss said anyone found operating past 8pm will be arrested. So far, 16 motorbikes have been confiscated and two riders arrested in connection with the burning of the Otange bus.
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