Boda boda motorcyclists in Yei upbeat about prospect of peace
Boda boda motorcyclists from across Yei town are voicing and quite possibly honking their support and optimism for a future blessed by durable peace, following the recent signing of the revitalized peace agreement.
“Many people have been displaced both within and outside the country, facing untold suffering from lack of basic services such as medicines, food, water, education and shelter. I hope this peace will now help restore sanity to us,” says 18-year-old boda boda driver Allan Alafi.
His colleague Angelo Kongkong Darius, known as Comedian Jangole when cracking jokes and not riding his motorbike, also has faith in harmony to prevail but says that he wants to see tangible peace dividends before he is thoroughly convinced.
“The problem is not about signing ceremonies, but about gaining the political will to implement in spirit and letter the provisions contained in the documents that I am yet to see and understand. We are so weary of this war. We deserve a future better than that of fear, hatred, misery and death,” he says.
Another boda boda biker, Hillary Lokonga, on the other hand, focused on hope and the way forward as he commented on the peace process:
“Let us forgive and forget. The past has gone, and the present is here, so let us begin a new life with a new outlook by putting our differences aside and cultivate a common destiny of peace.”
The three of them, plus a large number of their two-wheeling taxi driver peers, have just made their own contribution to a more peaceful environment. They have done so by attending a two-day road safety training organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, whose permanent presence in Yei has already been widely praised for increasing a sense of security in the area* (Scroll down for footnote).
“We have to respect everybody on the road, women, the elderly, the disabled, and even the insane people, including all creeping or crawling animals crossing the road to prevent accidents,” Mr. Darius explains, before listing what makes him feel properly equipped to hit the roads again:
“I have now learnt all new rafts of skills ranging from understanding road signs, knowing defensive driving, reading road signs, traffic rules and regulations to acquiring knowledge about infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS and Ebola, in an event of accident.”
Allan Alafi picked up yet other skills during the multifaceted training, including fair charging of customers, smartness and the importance of saving for the future.
“I am proud to learn that boda boda driving is now being recognized as a business. With only a mother, my life would have been a very difficult journey to make, but my motorbike has become my father from which I make ends meet,” he says.
UNMISS representative James Mugo Muriithi highlighted the social and economic importance of the boda boda driving community.
“By taking sick people to hospital, and by providing transport means in areas where vehicles might have not access, you demonstrate how important an ingredient you are to the entire population,” Mr. Mugo said, and also suggested that the drivers develop a system for rewarding and cautioning the best and worst drivers respectively.
*UNMISS has on various occasions reported on increased security and optimism among the population in the Yei area following the permanent deployment of peacekeepers there. On Saturday 15 September, however, an attack on an UNMISS convoy took place in Yei (read our press statement condemning the incident), which meant that the handover of reflective vests and helmets to the boda boda drivers had to be postponed.