KAMPALA, UGANDA – Margaret Muhakanizi, 54, a housewife and resident of Busabala, a Kampala suburb, lost her son, Job Mugenzi, 25, in a motorcycle accident earlier this year.
She says Mugenzi worked as a boda-boda cyclist in the commercial motorcycle public transport business popular in Uganda. She says Mugenzi died after swerving to avoid an oncoming car and colliding with another boda-boda rider early one morning on his way to work.
“He had not seen that there was a boda-boda beside him,” Muhakanizi says. “This boda-boda hit his motorcycle, and he fell off the motorbike and fell on the hard surface. And it hit and split his head.”
Muhakanizi says her son would have survived had he been wearing a helmet.
“Job had left his helmet at his friend’s place the previous day,” she says with a distant look in her eyes. “He would not have died. The helmet would have protected his head.”
Muhakanizi says that the driver of the car also bears responsibility for her son’s death.
“It was a weekend,” she says. “The person who was driving the vehicle was drunk. The road was small. He also contributed to the accident.”
She says Mugenzi’s friend was at the scene of the accident and took him to Mulago Hospital, the national referral hospital in the capital, Kampala, where he died.
Muhakanizi says her son was friendly.
“He was a friend of everybody,” she says. “He used to befriend even little children. I used to confide in him.”
She adds that he showered her with gifts and was God-fearing.
“He used to bring me things: utensils, basins and many other things,” she says. “He never used to miss church, and he was very active in church. I know we shall meet him in heaven.”
Mugenzi’s sister, Susan Atwongyeirwe, 23, says her older brother used to take good care of her.
“I had a share of Mugenzi’s monthly salary,” she says as tears fill her eyes. “He knew I didn’t have a job and he would give me money every end of month. He used to send me messages for Sabbath.”
She says he also used to send her messages for her birthday.
“He was buried on 1 st April, which is my birthday,” she adds tearfully.
Families decry the rising number of deaths and injuries from accidents related to boda-bodas. Medical professionals confirm an increasing number of patients from these accidents who are overwhelming hospital staff. Doctors, boda-boda cyclists and police blame a lack of standardized driving training for the rise, with cyclists alleging that police accept bribes to enable them to obtain driving permits. Authorities say plans are underway to improve regulations of the industry after delays caused by inadequate funding.
Deaths related to boda-boda or motorcycle accidents have steadily increased annually since the Uganda Police Force began producing the Annual Crime and Traffic Road/Safety Report in 2007. Deaths rose from 129 in 2006 to 330 in 2010.
Betty Birabwa, 43, a market