I am willing to bet a few francs that every single Kigali driver has a favourite ‘Why I hate taxi motos story’. This is mine.
Driving home from town around one in the morning a few years ago I saw a taxi moto, with a passenger, waiting to turn onto the road heading to town at the Cadillac intersection. The moto rider saw my fast approaching car, paused, and then on the spur of the moment, attempted to make a break for it. I still don’t know whether he was mentally unstable, drunk or high on something, but I can still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I realised that the fool was actually riding smack into my 4×4.
My instincts kicked in as I attempted to swerve away from his motocycle but he was simply moving too fast and before I knew it, I heard a sickening crash, followed by a scratching sound. I remember braking and thinking “oh my God, I’ve killed two people”. Jumping out of my car and running back to the scene, I fully expected to see a bloodbath. However, by some Act of God, neither the rider or his passenger was injured. In fact, by the time a police patrol arrived the female passenger had run off (probably because she was engaged in dodgy business). And funny enough, the motocycle, which I thought was ruined to damnation, suffered a few minor scratches. My car on the other hand? I lost the right headlight, indicator, side mirror and the entire right side was extremely scratched and battered. When the traffic police arrived, we discovered that the fellow did not have a drivers license which he said he left at home.
Getting my car fixed took about a year, what with the police reports, drives to Gasabo Court (in Kabuga) to get the judgment, negotiating with the insurance company, and then finally with the garage. What got my goat was that while I did all this, I was pretty sure the culprit had happily moved on, riding like a maniac as usual. So, it is okay to presume that I have a bone to pick with the errant moto riders. However, it doesn’t mean that I feel that they should be the target of a unfair fatwa.
On the 16th of this month, Kigali City, the National Police and RURA, in a meeting at police headquarters, decided that, and I’m quoting directly from a police press release, “a motorcyclist involved in traffic-related offences be imprisoned”.
Now, I’m all strong laws and proclamations that protect the weak and all that. However, what I don’t like are laws that unfairly target people.
Why should only taxi motorcyclists get imprisoned for causing accidents? They aren’t the only bad drivers around. I
have had countless conversations with foreigners who complain about how badly Rwandans drive. Plus, this measure is vague. For example, would a ‘private’ motorcyclist get imprisoned for the same offense? Probably not. So, what the errant rider would be punished for isnt his/her actual offense but rather their profession. And that isn’t right. Laws must be able to be applied across the board.
Here is my suggestion. Since it seems that we want to put these riders on a legal pedestal, perhaps their training and qualifications should reflect this new reality. Presently, anyone who qualifies for a motorcycle permit is able to become a ‘taxi moto’. I think that that qualification simply isn’t enough. These people have people’s lives in their hands and the hoops that they must jump through to get a taxi moto qualification should reflect that as well.
Simply arresting and incarcerating them will not give them the tools they need to become more responsible users of the road. Perhaps the traffic police, working with their associations, should do more at the testing phase. Make it harder to get a taxi moto permit. Better we have fewer taxi motos on the streets who actually are qualified to carry passengers, rather than have a bunch who are simply a danger to themselves, their passengers and everyone else.