16 January 2014

Tanzania: Mayhem in Arusha As 'Bodaboda' Riders Stage Protest

Arusha — MORE than 200 bodaboda (motorcycle taxi) riders in Arusha caused pandemonium when they blocked two major roads here, protesting against what they described as police harassment.

Their procession towards the Arusha District Commissioner's Office inconvenienced motorists and other roads users because the haphazardly-driven motorcycles rendered both Makongoro Road and East Africa Boulevard totally impassable for two hours.

The riders also threatened to beat up any motorist, pedestrian or any other person who stood in their way along the two city centre corridors.

They also vowed to beat local leaders of the bodaboda associations who they accused of betraying them. District Commissioner John Mongella went out to hear their grievances and they told him that for months now the police officers have been targeting them with exorbitant fines, sometimes exceeding 30,000/- for various notifications issued "from both real and imaginary traffic offences".

The riders also claimed that their chosen representatives were not supportive and have been ignoring their concerns and that was why they resolved to address the matter themselves by riding in protest to the District Administration block to air their grievances before the District Commissioner.

"I have received your complaints and concerns, this afternoon we are having a special meeting to address the issue with fellow officers, including representatives from the Police Department," said Mr Mongella, though his assurance did not seem to convince the Boda-boda riders who stuck to their guns in remaining at the roads' junction.

Eventually, the Arusha Urban Member of Parliament, Mr Godbless Lema, whose office is also located at the District Administration block, was compelled to go out and address the irate motor cycriders.

He promised them that their issue was being addressed and that the outcome of the Wednesday's meeting will be relayed to them today (Thursday) morning at an open meeting to be held at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium.

Some of the motorcycle riders' association leaders, who preferred not to be mentioned in the newspaper, said of late the bodaboda riders have been unruly, behaving as if there were no traffic regulations.

"That is why as their leaders, we did not take part in their protests because they threatened to beat us, saying we were siding with the government, though in reality we have been trying to remind them that they were not above the law to an extent of causing anarchy on local roads," they stated.

Other bodaboda riders who did not participate in the protest claimed that some newcomers from other regions have of late been taking up motorcycle taxi business in Arusha.

"These are the ones who have been causing major problems on the road, including reckless riding, robbery and other forms of petty crime, knowing that if things came to worse they will simply leave the town," they further claimed.

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