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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 16:51 GMT
Bicycle taxi wars in eastern Uganda
Fighting for a passenger in Jinja
Fighting for a passenger in Jinja
As part of a series of features on how transport problems affect the everyday lives of Africans, Abraham Odeke looks at bicycle taxi rivalries in Jinja

The bicycle taxi operators of eastern Uganda, known as the boda-boda, have a fearsome reputation


I just shouted 'boda-boda' and two teenagers converged on me

Passenger
Some are reported to the police by female passengers accusing them of using obscene language.

Fights between the muscular boda-boda for passengers are commonplace in this competitive business.

However, the majority of boda-boda should be praised for making an honest living for themselves.

And they operate are environmentally friendly tranport system, as the bicycle is a non-polluting and affordable vehicle which does not need big roads and lots of parking space.

Election boom

The boda-boda usually earn about 5,000 shillings ($3) a day, but the current election campaign has provided a welcome boost to their pockets.


Typical earnings are about $3 a day
Campaign agents pay the boda-boda to help ensure big crowds at political rallies.

Recently, it was estimated that more than 1,000 boda-boda poured onto the streets of the town of Busia on the Uganda-Kenya border, when incumbent presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni was campaigning.

"Now we pocket a daily income of up to 35,000 shillings ($20). We are eager to hear the day the parliamentary election campaign kicks off so we can again swing into vigorous action," boda-boda man, John Ekisa told me from from Busia.

In the town of Jinja, a smiling rider praised the recent decision of the Electoral Commission to delay the election from 7 March to 12 March enabling them to continue "milking the cow'".

Violence

But, boda-boda operators in Jinja are beginning to attract the attention of the municipal authorities and the police.

President Museveni
1,000 boda-boda profited from a Museveni rally in Busia
Almost every day, the streets witness incidents of assault within the boda-boda community.

"Those whose bicycles are parked on the busy Main Street do not want their colleagues from the parking bays on Iganga and Lubas Roads to pick any passenger they find on the Main Street," said a council official.

In an everyday incident that I witnessed, two boda-boda men fought for a passenger on the Main Street as the passenger looked at them helplessly.

"I think the mistake was mine. I just shouted 'boda-boda' and the two teenagers converged on me and each of them wanted to carry me on the cushioned bicycles," a passenger told me.

Now the local council and police have arranged seminars intending to give guidelines to the huge army of 10,000 bicycle taxi operators that are dotted around every corner of the town.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Africa
Ugandan opposition 'intimidated'
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