UNMISS donates protective gear to commercial motorbike drivers during road safety campaign in Torit
In a bid to reduce the number of accidents on the main roads of Torit, more than 100 commercial motorbike riders, locally known as boda boda drivers, have attended a one-day interactive session on road safety.
As part of the training, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and part of its mandate to protect civilians, helmets and reflective jackets were distributed to the grateful participants.
“We liked it [the workshop], because it also provided us with helmets, which will protect us from dust. Of course, risk of accidents will also be reduced because now we are protected,” the excited Camillo Lino exclaimed as the session came to a close.
Information about traffic rules and safe driving practices was much needed among Torit’s professional motorbike riders.
“We have been operating without any knowledge about road safety and about how to protect our clients,” said Sebit Marcello, whose entire family depends exclusively on the income his business generates.
Driving a boda boda is a huge part of the local economy. Unemployment is rife, and with few other possibilities to make a living, most young men (and some women) earn their money by ferrying passengers around on motorcycles of varying quality. In fact, to make ends meet, many men employed by in the public sector resort to two-wheeled taxi driving to support their families.
“I’m a soldier in South Sudan Defense Force, I’m able to take care of my family and send my two children to school because I partly do boda boda business. Today I have learned how to ride safely, so I will ride along with my safety helmets and make more money,” Efuk Mario said.
Most boda boda drivers operate illegally, without paying money to register their license plates with the traffic police. As the road safety campaign targeted only drivers with their paperwork in order, many could not benefit from the training, helmets and high-visibility vests.
“I regret that I have missed the knowledge and the protective gear provided by UNMISS. I would like to participate next year if the same exercise will happen then,” said Denis Sebit.
Sebit Marcello urged local authorities to intervene to bring more boda boda drivers into legality.
“We request our state government to recognize us, to reduce the price of licenses and motorcycle spare parts,” he said.
A similar road safety campaign is scheduled to be conducted in Magwi, close to the Ugandan border, benefitting another 100 commercial motorcycle riders.