Boda-boda is one of the easiest and fastest means of transport in Kampala if not Uganda as a commonly used means in all major towns. In fact, if you are late for a meeting, interview or any other important engagement, there is no need to worry as the Boda-boda is just a stone’s throw. At the onset, the charge is affordable because it is negotiable. With the large boda boda crowd, you are certain of getting one who will dance to your tune of affordability. However, what is the real cost of arriving to that destination? I wonder!
Boda bodas are employing the educated and uneducated thanks to the industry’s growth since the 1950s where it began as people crossing between Ugandan and Kenyan boarders used bicycles or motorcycle couriers to evade taxi or avoid in-boarder fatigue as they crossed from one end to the other. About 10 million people are said to be employed by this industry that is looked at as the solution to unemployment of mainly the youth. The benefits exist and many have progressed from it though many too have lost lives – passengers and drivers. Boda bodas are having far reaching effects on mannerisms of Ugandans especially the youth who are the ‘legs’ to carry this country forward. The lawlessness of the riders cannot be compared to any other industry. At the spot, 8 out of 10 boda bodas will not follow regulations. This extends to even breaking rules that protect their own lives. From sight, most boda riders have images of a helmet on their heads, whether these would protect their heads in case of an accident is a different story. Dr. Ian Clarke, former mayor of Makindye Division, once exclaimed, “if you want to know how Ugandans treasure life, just not only watch how they ride but detest protective gears.”
The mannerisms of riding do not just stop at riding; they spring into other spheres of life. As they ride against traffic rules, to not caring about their life and passengers, so will they treat us all. When a boda boda causes an accident, all is done to accuse the offended and acquit the offender. A boda rider who admits being in the wrong is 1/1000. Some have fallen prey and even lost lives. This is breeding ground for genocide. The general behaviour of the youth is about them and no one else, not even their parents. Others are seen as anti youth and have even formed classes. In general, the dialogue gap between the young and old is widening, breeding danger, them being the majority. Who will guide them with lasting wisdom which will form their character?
The twentieth century internationally was termed the ‘century of genocide’ after registering a high number of genocide cases. The Armenian, the Holocaust and the genocide of Rwanda all happened then. The causes of these included discrimination either by race, group, religion etc. What do the youth think of the adults today? How do uneducated and educated youth relate?
The notion of counting the youth as vulnerable is growing.
Youth will always side with their peers; a reality characteristic of any age group though this time round, it is used to depict how the old have immersed all opportunities. The notion ‘youth are less privileged because adults are greedy’ is growing. In almost every setting, they will paint a picture of destitution. This translates into being undetermined and knowing that their progress in life depends more on them. Opportunities will be created however, only the prepared will seize them.
While overlooking boda boda mannerisms, the habit of lawlessness has been nurtured, and already in the taste are its sour fruits. Uganda is said not to have an elite class. Though the age group exists, its behavior cannot play the role of transforming and transitioning communities. A mustard seed has been sown by ignoring development of systems rather than emphasizing gain. Unless boda bodas are regulated, no matter the cost and will it takes; lawlessness will only increase, and with it, corruption because of the notion that boda boda is quick gain no matter whose toes have to be stepped on.
On the other hand, it is said our communities are lacking elders in the sense of the word, men and women of wisdom to groom the youth with wisdom and knowledge. As the generational gap grows, so does rebellion. A pit Uganda may have to dwell in for generations. Like wild flowers, the boda boda culture thrives anywhere with far reaching effects. When one relies on boda bodas for speed, lateness becomes their middle name. The assumption that boda-Bs (as they are called by the youth) will be fast breeds a culture of lateness. The popular saying ‘Whites have watches but Africans have the time’ is put to full practice here. However, young people are losing businesses and missing opportunities in the end.
The dot-com era is instead characterized by sluggishness. No matter how safe the boda bodas may be, frequent use of it will not build self control in youth. It simply nurtures the I-will-have-my-way mentality. The failure to organize boda bodas in Uganda nurtures lawlessness. As usual, our regulations are good on paper not practice. Schools and institutions have regulations but all can be broken and no one is reprimanded. Putting into consideration the varying levels of income the youth can be groomed to use commuter vehicles to ingrain the habit of planning, time management and self control, simple ways that teach lifelong lessons, leave alone the cost. Boda bodas are not cheap, it is a presumption.
Often times, the youth view boda boda business as the quick way to success, a lee way to the future even when they rebel against their parents or decide to drop out of school. The challenge is not being a well regulated business. Safe Boda, Taxify etc. are organized groups but joining is voluntary. Majority of boda bodas are opposed out of those associations.
While we lobby and wait on the legal framework and the political will to regulate boda bodas, using our influence can reduce on the effect this industry and other unregulated ventures will have on our country. The Vatican Council II “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” reminds of the responsibility to renew temporal orders. It is the responsibility of every parent, teacher, priest and religious as well as politicians to restore our communities to rightful condition reflecting eternity. It is important to start with the end in mind. To where will boda boda and its mannerisms lead us?
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