KIGALI CHRONICLES: Helmets, Okada, Attitudes


Over the past few weeks police in Accra have been busy arresting motorcyclists. Among the bikes they have impounded are those belonging to legitimately registered courier services, ‘okada’, and that of private individuals.

Of course if motorbikes are unregistered as per our laws they should be cleared off the streets. However it seems to me that we generally make it seem we have an aversion to motorbikes when in fact they can be a very useful tool in solving loads of problems.

Some of the reasons police have always given is that criminals use them to commit crimes. We forget though that criminals also use cars as well. So if we want to combat crime then perhaps we should look at the root causes and then thoroughly examine the means by which they are perpetrated.

We generally have a situation in Ghana where our vehicular population is most probably a lot more than our people population. Everyday hundreds of cars are registered and unleashed on the same road network we have had since God knows when. We know we do not build things in Ghana projecting into the future. We have ten cars so let’s build a road to take ten cars. That’s how we live. We have thus ended up with heavy pollution on our roads and a perpetually cumbersome traffic situation.

Back to Kigali.

What the Nigerians call and we have also began referring to as okada is a very popular and efficient source of transport here in Kigali. The beauty of their system is that each rider carries a spare helmet for his passenger. It is the law. The people know why they must wear them and so they wear them.

It is the law in Ghana too. But trust me we are one of the most lawless people on earth. Nod if you have ever seen a rider with a helmet hanging on his bike whiles he rides away! Nod if you have ever seen a motorcyclist jump traffic lights as though they were told that the lights were made for cars only! Nod if you agree it is a rare sight to see a motorcyclist with a spare helmet for the person who will be riding behind him!

I was in Burkina Faso about seven years ago abd our northern neighbours encouraged the use of motorcycles and bicycles. See, there’s a lot of benefits in promoting the use of bikes as a means of transportation. We somewhat have closed our minds to the positive sides and whiles at it, allow the negatives to cloud our judgement.

Our roads are getting smaller; contractors are doing more shoddy works which means that just 6 six months after building a road we must get another contractor to fill potholes; our laws on car importation allows junk from overseas on our roads and the effect of all these are pollution and the myriad of transport problems and all.

We are a people who generally believe that we are better than most but yet our behaviour show that those we often do not give much credence to are better at appreciating the laws they have put in place to guide them. I think it is more about our personal attitudes which have fed into that of our nation. Our leaders are a reflection of us.

If you are an adult of sound mind and you always need to have the police tell you to do what you know you should do then perhaps your mind is not that sound afterall.

Kigali has a lot of lessons for us. A lot. I wish our leaders will come here and learn. The US and Europe are too far. Right here in Africa we have loads of examples to learn from.

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