Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a nationwide crackdown on rogue motorcycle taxi operators and a fresh registration of all operators following public outrage over a video allegedly showing a female motorist being assaulted by operators.
Kenyatta issued the order on Tuesday during an event in Nairobi to commemorate International Women’s Day.
The operation will begin in the capital and spread to other parts of the country. More than 200 operators were arrested and more than 900 motorcycles impounded by police on Tuesday morning, according to local media reports.
Kenyatta underscored the importance of motorcycle taxi operators (locally known as boda boda) by highlighting their socioeconomic contributions but pointed out that it was not permitted to give operators free rein to do what they pleased.
“That is not a license for you and your motorbike to harass pedestrians by driving on pedestrian walkways and chasing them back off the road. It’s not a license that allows for a boda boda to be used to do drive-by shootings or to break vehicles’ windows and harass motorists along the road,” Kenyatta said.
“Most definitely, it is not a license for you to strip and remove dignity from our women.”
“We want to work with you, we want to help your business prosper but you must also do your bit because your customers are also women. How will they be your customers when you disrespect them in such a manner? We cannot be a society that allows that.”
Kenyatta also sought to defend his administration from potential attacks by political opponents who, he claimed, would try to gain political mileage by wrongfully accusing it of frustrating and harassing the youth and small business entrepreneurs.
“There is nothing further from the truth. We want to see our young people succeed in their businesses. There is no government that has done more to support our young people in trying to foster their businesses.”
Earlier on Tuesday, dozens of people took to the streets in Nairobi’s central business district to protest against the assault of the female motorist. More than 16 suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident which occurred during the weekend, local media reported.
Motorcycle taxis are a popular means of transport in Kenya as they are affordable and fast, employing thousands of young people.
However, there have been persistent concerns about rogue elements within the sector with multiple reports of the taxis being used to commit crimes and operators regularly intimidating pedestrians and motorists and taking the law into their own hands in case of an accident or dispute on the road.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)