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Uganda boda boda rider kills himself ‘over bribe’

2 min read

A 29-year-old motorcycle taxi rider in Uganda has died after setting fire to himself inside a police station after officers failed to release his impounded bike.

Hussein Walugembe’s motorbike was confiscated in the south-western district of Masaka, about 134km (83 miles) from the capital, Kampala, on Monday.

As part of the restrictions to control the spread of Covd-19, the government has banned motorcycle taxis – or boda bodas – from carrying passengers.

They are able to operate between 06:30 and 17:00 local time but must only transport cargo.

According to the police, Mr Walugembe had lent his bike to a friend, who was caught ferrying a passenger on Monday.

Mr Walugembe reportedly became frustrated with the police after visiting the station several times to demand its release.

On Thursday, he locked himself in a room at the station and set himself ablaze using petrol concealed in a water bottle and match sticks.

Officers at the station ferried water in jerrycans to put out the fire.

An officer who was with him at the time suffered minor injuries and several files and computers were destroyed.

Some motorcycle riders have alleged to local media that officers were asking for a $40 (£32) bribe to release the bike.

Following the self-immolation, regional police spokesperson Paul Kangave said an investigation had been launched into the conduct of the entire traffic department.

He said the force’s Professional Standards Unit would be looking into allegations that the officers were demanding bribes after vehicles were impounded for flouting lockdown restrictions.

Riding boda bodas is a substantial source of income for thousands of young people in Uganda, many of whom are currently out of work.

The government began easing lockdown restrictions in May but maintained those on boda bodas.

President Yoweri Museveni said in late June that they could lead to the further spread of the virus if allowed to transport people at this stage.

Uganda so far has 900 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 847 recoveries and no deaths.

Many of the cases have been reported among long-distance truck drivers and their contacts.

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