Lamu, KENYA: Businesses were interrupted for hours in Lamu town on Saturday after boda-boda operators took to the streets to celebrate in a special way just a day after former governor Issa Timamy lost his petition challenging governor Fahim Twaha.
The jovial boda-boda operators ran around the streets of Lamu Island, singing and dancing while carrying placards with messages to congratulate the Malindi High Court for upholding governor Twaha’s election.
They said former governor Issa Timamy had frustrated their operations since he was the one championing for the ban on motorcycles, vehicles and even bicycles in Lamu Old Town.
According to Lamu Island boda-boda operators’ spokesperson Mohamed Badi, they decided to celebrate in unison, something they said was meant to mark their freedom as boda-bodas and also to signify the end of Timamy’s era which they described as frustrating and dictatorial.
“We are happy as bodaboda operators in Lamu Island. Timamy was opposed to motorcycle operation within Lamu town. We were praying for him to lose his petition and that’s what exactly happened. Governor Twaha hasn’t disturbed us on matters motorcycle operation here in Lamu town. We are now free to operate our boda boda business after Timamy lost his case,” said Mr. Badi.
Mr. Salim Ahmed said they decided to set the whole Saturday to celebrate Timamy’s loss.
He said due to Timamy’s previous stand to ban automobiles in Lamu town, many youths ended up engaging in drug abuse and theft since they had no employment.
Mr. Salim said for the past seven months that Twaha has been in power, the boda-boda trade has prospered and helped to employ many youths in the region.
“Timamy contributed to the high number of youth who had no meaningful employment here in the Island. Since August last year after Twaha won the seat, many youth have been absorbed in the bodaboda trade. No one has disturbed us so far and that’s why we have been campaigning for Twaha and not Timamy,” said Mr Salim.
Recently, locals in Lamu noted that incidents of theft, mugging, burglary and even cases where residents would be waylaid and robbed of their valuables had greatly reduced since the boda-boda trade was introduced.
According to Mr Omar Yusuf of Kashmiri village, people can now walk with ease at night without having to worry about being robbed or even murdered due to the increased number of motorcyclists operating up to late into the night.
The sentiments come at a time when donkey owners and cart pushers in Lamu town have decried the ever-growing number of boda-boda operators which they say is now pushing them out of business.
It should be noted that Lamu town was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2001 due to its rich culture and heritage.
As a result, the Lamu county government under former governor Issa Timamy had banned the use of automobiles in the historical town as a move to preserve its culture and heritage.
Residents allowed to operate in the town were only those depending on foot, donkeys and carts for transport and movement.
However, efforts to conserve and preserve the old town in the same breath is facing a serious threat as westernization slowly begins to take over.
At the moment, Lamu town has over 100 motorcycles, bicycles and a good number of vehicles as the county government continues to turn a blind eye on the UNESCO heritage city that requires such elements not to exist at the first place.