There were reports of overnight mass arrests and confiscation of commuter motorbikes in Nairobi on Tuesday, but Diana sees the issue as far wider than any particular group of men.
“Those were not just boda boda riders,” she said. “Those were men – representative of many who have complete disrespect for women.”
Prominent voices and international rights organisations voiced their fury about Friday’s attack in International Women’s Day messages. UN Women Kenya called the incident a “horrific reality check”, Amnesty Kenya said it was “worrying and sickening” and called for the “firm and speedy apprehension of perpetrators”, while the country’s chief justice, Martha Koome, called the attack “heinous” and “cruel” in a statement. Koome said she hoped that the perpetrators would be “apprehended and processed through the criminal justice system”.
The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said he had ordered a crackdown on boda bodas, starting in Nairobi and continuing across the country, and the police service said that it had arrested 16 suspects and impounded five motorbikes in relation to the assault.
But local organisers don’t see this as an isolated incident. Ashura Mciteka, founder of the local Coalition of Grassroots Women Initiative in Nairobi’s Dandora suburb, said she was not surprised by the video footage.
Mciteka’s organisation mainly deals with cases of sexual and gender-based violence in a highly populated district in the east of the city. “That video was taken by a man,” she said. “A woman would have not taken such a video when that was happening. We are not only looking at boda boda guys who do not have respect for women, but men in general who do not respect women.”
At the time of writing, a petition on change.org urging tougher regulation of boda bodas in Kenya has garnered more than 180,000 signatures. One of the signatories wrote: “I don’t need to feel unsafe as a woman.”
But at least one boda boda rider is warning against scapegoating an entire industry of low-income transport providers.
Speaking to openDemocracy from his house in Nairobi, Timothy Ndeke, 55, condemned the incident but added: “What happened was bad behaviour by a few. All of us will now pay for it.”
Friday’s sexual assault happened in a street named after Wangari Maathai. “A road named to honour Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, a fighter not just for the earth but for our rights,” said Diana. “The assault is a sign that this struggle is far from over.”
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