25 August 2008

Uganda: Minister Tells Mayuge Boda Bodas to Overload

State Minister for Gender Rukia Isanga has issued a directive permitting boda boda cyclists in Mayuge to transport more than one passenger on their motorcycles at a time contrary to the traffic law.

Ms Isanga issued the directive during a meeting at her house last week after the cyclists threatened to strike alleging police harassment.

She said negotiations with the Police in the district to bend the traffic rule had been completed and that the cyclists could load two passengers on their motorcycles without interference."We have gone through a mutual understanding with the Police to allow the cyclists carry two people," Ms Isanga said, but warned against over speeding.

She lashed out at the Police for arresting the cyclists and said it was unfair to limit the number of passengers to be carried since the cyclists get the motorcycles on loan and must make enough money to pay back in time. "I will not allow any policeman to over charge the cyclists under the pretext of fines charged on overloading, over speeding or lack of driving permits," she said.

Ms Isanga's declaration resulted into massive celebrations that brought business in town to a halt for over one hour as the cyclists chanted pro-Nakadama slogans from all corners of the town. The District Police Officer in Charge of Operations, Mr Moses Wankuma also told the cyclists that they were free to carry two passengers without any interference from police.

"The cyclists can not afford to pay for the motorcycles unless helped and allowed to carry two passengers," he said. He said they had decided to excuse the boda bodas since the practice was also being condoned in the neighbouring district of Iganga. When consulted, the Acting District Police Commander, Mr James Ejang, however denied having allowed the cyclists to load more than one passenger.

He also denied having agreed with Ms Nakadama to allow the cyclists transport more than one passenger and vowed to arrest and prosecute those caught in the act."I can not change the law since I am not part of the legislature but a policeman who is here to implement what has been passed by Parliament," he said.

"Mr Wankuma did so as an individual but not on behalf of the Police," Mr Ejang said adding that whoever would be found breaking the rules would be fined.

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