By David Awori
Boda boda riders in Busia Town mounted roadblocks to collect condolence fees for their colleague who was involved in a fatal accident in Tororo district on Monday.
Using ropes, the commercial cyclists blocked roads and collected money from road users.
Mr. Wilson Okiru, a boda boda rider, said the culture of mounting blockades was to ensure motorcycle riders and other road users pay some money as condolence fees for their departed colleagues.
“We started doing this early, targeting our fellow riders who are usually reluctant to pay condolence fees, but also other road users,” Mr Okiru, who was collecting the condolence along Tira Road, said.
“On Sunday, Amisi Naku, one of our colleagues was involved in a fatal accident in Tororo, that is why we are here to collect condolence fees from well-wishers and members of the boda boda fraternity,” he added.
Mr Rajab Ekeya, another rider, said they were collecting money ranging from Shs500 to Shs10,000 from the road users and their colleagues at the various motorcycle stages.
“As boda boda riders, we don’t have enough money saved to cater for emergencies, especially death, that is why asked travelers and well-wishers to contribute towards our colleague’s burial expenses,” Mr Ekeya explained.
The development, however, caused a huge traffic gridlock as vehicles formed long queues that left several road users complaining, while others resorted to using ungazetted routes to dodge paying the condolence fees.
Mr Stanley Peter Mugeni, a resident of Dabani, who was reportedly delayed by over ten minutes on his way to the Tiira gold-mining area, said what the motorcycle riders did was “in conflict with traffic regulations”.
Mr Saleh Wandera, another resident, said whereas soliciting for condolence fees was a good idea, mounting roadblocks along the road and “holding travelers at ransom” was bad, especially for a deceased who was unknown to the motorists.
Mr Philip Malaba, a mechanic in Busia Town, said the boda boda riders have associations, stages, and offices from where they can meet and solicit such funds, rather than block roads and involve travelers.
Mr Grace Kanuna, the Deputy Busia Resident District Commissioner (RDC), described the condolence-collection drive as “illegal” and “next to extortion”.
However, one of the residents, who preferred to only be identified as “Ssalongo”, thinks the boda boda riders were right to collect condolence fees, especially from their colleagues.
He said: “Death is something that is never planned and is good that people stand with the family of the departed by paying condolence,” Ssalongo said.
Mr Jackson Ouma, another resident, said it was good to collect condolence fees along the road because many people have no time to stand with colleagues who are in dire need.