Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered on Tuesday the most severe and a census of motorcycle cabs across the country, after the scandal caused by the video of a young woman assaulted by several of them.
In the video, which has gone viral on social networks, a young woman is seen screaming at the wheel of her open car, as she is assaulted and partially stripped by motorcycle cab drivers, apparently after a traffic accident.
On Tuesday morning, police announced that they had conducted an operation against motorcycle cabs in the capital Nairobi, resulting in more than 200 arrests.
“I have asked the police to use the tools of the law to punish these perpetrators,” Uhuru Kenyatta said in a speech on the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, adding: “There should never be a repeat of what we have seen, it is a scourge on the entire Kenyan society.”
He asked motorcycle cabs, known as boda-boda, to re-register with the transport authorities or face sanctions.
“I have instructed and ordered the utmost severity against boda-boda operators, starting here in Nairobi and throughout the country,” he said.
This activity “is not a license to undress and take away the dignity of our women,” he said. “We will register you all, again,” he said.
– “Barbaric act” –
About 150 Kenyan women and activists marched Tuesday morning in Nairobi to denounce the incident. They marched towards the police headquarters, holding up signs reading “Listen to my cry” or “Today it’s her, tomorrow it’s me” and demanding an end to violence against women.
“We can no longer accept living like this,” Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i told the protesters, promising a “ruthless and radical” overhaul of the motorcycle cab industry.
Police said Monday they had arrested 16 people in connection with the incident, which outraged opinion in the East African country.
The head of the judiciary Martha Koome called it “cruel, inhumane” and “without any humanity”. “I denounce this act as barbaric and in need of the highest judicial attention,” she said in a statement.
Two-wheelers are a popular mode of transportation in Kenya, which lacks a developed public transport system.
According to 2018 official data, at least 1.4 million motorcycles are registered in Kenya, the majority of which are used as cabs.
Nearly 17,000 motorcycles are registered each month, the government statistics office said in 2019. The sector is poorly regulated, and these numbers could be much higher.
Boda-boda drivers, usually young men, have a reputation for breaking traffic laws and attacking motorists in accidents. They have also often been accused of snatching and harassing other road users, as well as abuse, including rape.
In 2020, a group of boda-boda attempted to lynch a former army chief after one of them rammed his car, while a deputy governor had his car burned after a similar accident.