Lamu, KENYA: Boda Boda operators in Lamu town have paid special homage to the ongoing 18th edition of the Lamu Cultural Festival by halting services for the entire four day period of the fete.
The festival which kicked off on Thursday has normally held annually every month of November in the Lamu old town, a historical city which was listed back in 2001 by Unesco as a World Heritage site.
The four-day fete ends on Sunday.
Due to the historical nature of the Lamu old town, donkeys and foot movement is allowed due to the narrowness of the alleyways
Automobiles including motorcycles and vehicles are not supposed to operate in the heritage town except for a select few including an ambulance and the county commissioner’s official land cruiser.
Automobiles were officially banned from the town in 2015 in a bid to maintain the image of the old town as a heritage site.
However,boda-boda operators have been in business in the old town since around August 2017, shortly after the general elections.
Currently, there are over 150 motorcycles in active business in the town.
However, due to the ongoing cultural festival which showcases the rich culture and heritage of Lamu’s Swahili communities that have remained steadfast over the decades,boda-boda operators have decided to keep their motorcycles off the streets since the bikes are a sign of westernization and modernization, something that shouldn’t happen in a heritage site.
Speaking in Lamu town on Friday, Lamu Boda Boda Association chairperson Mohamed Badi said they decided to do so, so as to give guests ample time to enjoy the festival without having to experience the discomfort normally caused when the motorcycles are rushing all over the town.
Badi says the move is also a sign of how much they respect the heritage and culture of Lamu town while understanding well that the motorbikes would paint a negative image of the heritage town during the festival.
The cultural festival showcases the rich culture and heritage of Lamu’s Swahili communities and is normally preceded by various competitions led by the famous donkey race, swimming, dhow races and a combination of traditional dances.
The festival is renowned for its titillating economic returns that leave many traders and business people reaping larger profits than they would have on their normal business days.
“As boda-boda operators, we decided to halt business for the four day period so as to show respect to the festival. The festival is meant to showcase heritage and tradition that has stood the test of time and we know motorbikes are not part of that heritage. We don’t want people to experience the chaos that normally accompanies such a venture. We resume work next week Monday,” said Badi.
Abdalla Omar, a boda-boda operator in Lamu town also said they reached the decision due to the immense human traffic being experienced all over the tiny streets of Lamu town and that the motorbikes would have only made the situation uglier.
“There are people all over and literally everywhere. The streets are flooded and so you can imagine if we had to add motorbikes on top of that traffic, it would be a mess and so we are glad we are off the road for now. We want people to have fun and enjoy seeing our traditions and culture we can talk business later,” said Omar.