Boda-Boda Members Demonstrate Over GSU Harrassment
Volume 1, Issue 4-5 / March-April 2009
Boda-boda bicycle taxi drivers demonstrated on March 21st, claiming harassment and unfair competition from the GSU police.
On Saturday 21st March 2009, the members of the boda-boda bicycle taxi crew decided to call off business and stand their ground in a public demonstration. They could be seen on roads carrying placards with messages meant to reach the GSU (General Services Unit of the Kenyan Police).
“The GSU are using their vehicles to carry out tasks that are meant to be ours,” states the vice chairman of the boda-boda organization based in Kakuma Town, Mr. Emanual Moit. He claims that that the vehicles given to the GSU by UNHCR for security patrols are instead being used as passenger service vehicles to ferry people from town to various parts of the camp.
Boda-boda drivers complain that when a bus arrives in Kakuma Town, the GSU can be seen carrying refugees on the pretence of giving them a lift, but in reality they are charging for the service. Some people claim that they have witnessed GSU officers taking money from refugee passengers.
The general secretary of the boda-boda organization, Mr. Christopher Ekwam, reports that the GSU are also using their vehicles to transport miraa from the bus station to camp vendors. “They are snatching that job from us; this job is for the boda boda people and that is where we earn our daily bread,” he claims.
On Saturday, boda-boda drivers demonstrated because they were being evicted from the camp earlier than the usual curfew time of 6:30 pm.
“How can somebody be chased from the camp at 5:00 pm?” asks Mr. Moit. “At that time there are still people who need our services and we cannot refuse to carry them because we are after money.”
Boda-boda drivers complain that the GSU officers also forcefully request money from them.
“They ask for money by force and if you fail to produce money they turn you upside down so that everything could fall out of the pockets and they take,” reports Mr. Ekwam. He says one boda-boda driver had a cell phone taken in this way, and another one is currently in the hospital nursing injuries sustained during an “unscrupulous beating” by GSU officers.
Boda-boda drivers also complain that GSU officials sometimes remove the number plates on their bicycles which certify that they are duly registered with the boda-boda organization. The GSU argue that the plates are of no importance, yet they have a significant meaning to members of the organization.
Following the demonstration, members of the boda-boda organization met with the Vice Deputy OCS (Officer Commanding Station) and the GSU officer in Kakuma. The parties resolved that boda-boda drivers should leave the camp each evening between 6:00-6:30 pm. According to Mr. Moit, the GSU also agreed that they would not carry passengers or transport miraa again. The police instructed any boda-boda drivers with complaints to forward petitions to the police station.
“We hope they will adhere to that as we also keep our part of the agreement,” says Mr. Moit.