Uganda MPs should take on boda riders as they did with Nyege Nyege

Saturday September 17 2022

The obstacles to the revival of mass transport in Kampala and the boda boda menace ought to have preoccupied our legislators more than what paying adults were doing at Nyege Nyege Festival in Jinja. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG


Uganda is a nation of the highest moral standards, no wonder we gave the (Catholic) Church its largest harvest of saints in one episode — 22 of them, now known as the Uganda Martyrs! Since 1969, every Pope reigning at The Vatican feels duty bound to make a pilgrimage to Kampala, at a place called Namugongo where they were burnt to death for refusing to compromise on their morality.

It is therefore not surprising that our parliamentarians have been up in arms against the Executive over a festival deemed immoral and called Nyege Nyege — what an immoral sounding name that provokes feelings of gyration — that used to be held annually in Jinja, 80 kilometres east of Kampala, before the Covid-19 interruption.

How do people dare think of coming from different countries to perform immoral dances in this highly moral land of ours!

Much as we don’t tolerate immoral dances, we are a very forgiving society. That is why although the lodges of Kampala fill up at lunchtime, their short-term clients who return home from work promptly at five wearing pious faces and sounding like gospel preachers as they greet their husbands and wives occupy front pews in our churches, playing key roles in the worship sessions, because it also part of morality to forgive.

That is why blatant robbers of public funds are also major donors to church projects, because generosity is a virtue in highly moralistic societies like ours.

How then can anyone think we can tolerate fellows who want to contaminate our pure land by bringing musicians and dancers, splashing money while hiding in a thickly vegetated arena at the source of the Nile and spend four days doing immoral things?


In that first week of September, however, there was a major development in the capital city of Kampala, which is directly run by the central government, which ought to have preoccupied our national legislators more than what paying adults were doing in Jinja, which a city with its own city council, inside a district which also has a district council.

In Kampala, for the first time in living memory, mass public transport was being revived, with two bus companies being licensed to operate on two key city routes.

The revival of mass transport was, however, running into obstacles which should have concerned national legislators more than events of paying adults hidden far away. The sleek, modern but innocent buses were being beaten by angry matatu touts and conductors, their crime being that they are so clean and lovely, offering Ugandans an opportunity to travel decently in their city.

As the week wore on, the smart new bus operators enlisted the hostile touts to also call passengers for them, for a fee.

Realising that the buses were offering them an opportunity and not removing them from work, the touts became cooperative.

But then the local authorities have not moved fast enough to enable mass transport to operate smoothly, by way of designating lanes for the buses.

So boarding the sleek, zero-emission electric, soundless buses does not necessarily save you from the traffic jam, though you can enjoy free wi-fi and air-con while on board. Such are the matters that should have engaged the nation more than Nyege Nyege.


Caning poor young buses by touts aside, the MPs should address the boda boda menace with the same vigour as they did Nyege Nyege.

Today, 14 Ugandans are being killed on the roads daily, half of them being passengers or riders on boda boda. Most hospital beds are now occupied by boda boda crash victims, at the expense of other ailments.

Previous attempts to register boda boda and institute some form of regulated operating environment for them have failed.

Recently a for-pay training programme was started for them but the boda boda riders have scoffed at it, claiming it is just a money making plot for some connected people, and that the certificate one gets after attending it does not mean anything to the traffic and statutory registration authorities.

Such matters, though directly linked to several deaths a day, are not deemed as important and worth of more urgent parliamentary attention as a four-day picnic for paying adults in some forest by the riverside.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:[email protected]