Well, there go my Friday evenings. Kigali City Council (KCC), in its infinite wisdom, has decided to finally enforce a 2008 directive banning taxi motorcycles (known locally as ‘motos’) from Kigali’s streets after ten at night. I heard the news on Friday night while enjoying a night out with the lads and truth be told, I didn’t believe it at all. Thinking it was one of those Kigali rumors I went straight to the New Times website and, hidden under an innocuous headline “Taxi motos get operation guidelines’, I found out that the news was actually true.
Motos are one of those ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’ kind of things. Many a time I’ve thought that I was going to meet my Maker while sitting on the back on a moto; after all, as Traffic Police boss Celestin Twahirwa noted, 80 percent of all the accidents in this country involve motos. But on the other hand, I’ve thanked the heavens for the motorcycle taxis as I’ve gotten to meetings on time, a feat I wouldn’t have dared to dream possible if I was in a car.
The directive has a lot of really smart initiatives in it. Motos will now have to ride at the extreme right of the road, avoiding most of the mouth-drying swerving that many reckless motorcycle taxi operators were prone to engage in order to beat the traffic. And the sight of kids, hanging on for dear life, with heads too small to safely wear helmets, as the moto roared by will be no more either courtesy of the directive, which bans passengers below the age of twelve from riding on motos. These two directives are simply smart and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it took three years to enforce them.
However, the 10pm directive is confusing and, with all due respect, wrong. What makes it extremely confusing for me is that the ‘directive’ is ‘flexible’. Is a law, which is what this directive is, ever flexible? In this case it is, strangely enough. Bruno Rangira, KCC’s communication honcho, muddied the waters even more when he told the New Times journalist that, “the understanding (between the moto operators association and the traffic police) allows motos to operate for 24 hours and we will not change this unless otherwise”.
If a moto wants to work beyond 10 pm they will need to seek ‘official authorization. The problem is this; who gives this authorization and what are the criteria for this authorization to be given? Nowhere in the directive is this explained. And how many motos will be able to get this authorization? What will stop each and every moto driver from getting this authorization? And if they all get the ‘official authorization’ won’t be past ’10pm’ rule end up being pointless? And anyway, how can you prove if a motorcyclist is a taxi operator or not? If they remove their vests they look like any other motorcyclist. Won’t they simply remove their vests after ten and still continue working?
Ignoring all the practicalities of this particular directive, how will this directive make life for us better? After ten, buses barely operate unless you live in Nyamirambo and not many citizens can afford to take cabs or buy their own modes of transport. At the end of the day, what this directive is doing is making life unduly difficult for the thousands of people who live in the city. Kigali is becoming a 24-hour a day city but this simply isnt possible if there isnt a reliable transport system.
This is, sadly, one of those decisions that aren’t thought through and instead of having a tacit agreement between the moto operators and the traffic police, I’m calling for that directive to be formally declared null and void. As soon as possible.