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Death on the roads: driving motorcycle taxis in South Sudan

By Tapeng Michael Ohure

Motorcycle taxi driving was just another means of survival for jobless youths in South Sudan’s capital Juba.

But with a dire economic crisis, the “boda boda” business is becoming a death trap for those youths, targeted by criminals intent on robbing their motorbikes.

Peter (not real names) lost his bike on Terekeka road, about 10 kilometres outside Juba but was lucky to be alive.

That day Peter had dropped a passenger just after Bilpham, the main army barracks and as he turned his bike around to return to Juba, four armed men showed up.

Either surrender the bike or we kill you, Peter recalled of the incident.

“I gave it to them and walked home,” he told Juba Echo in an interview.

He handed over the bike and now hires from fellow riders and share the money he makes on the day.

Unlike Peter, Dhieu Alek Agok Thuch was however not so lucky.

Thuch was killed while driving in Sherikat, 5 kilometres outside the capital on the evening of October 10 when the passenger he was carrying smashed him on the back of the head, killing him instantly.

Guns are awash in the hands of wrong people in South Sudan and with the economic crisis caused by the war, armed criminals roam looking for people to loot their valuables and kill.

The war which began in December 2013 left 400,000 people dead and displaced four million others, slashed crude production, the main revenue source for South Sudan, caused massive inflation and eroded people’s purchasing powers.

Even security officials who hold guns are now receiving less than 2000 South Sudanese Pounds ($5) a month.

South Sudan is implementing a peace deal that aims at stopping the conflict and the country to the path of security and democracy.

But localised insecurity has persisted across and majorly triggered by the eroding of purchasing power.

South Sudanese are now ten times poorer than they were at independence.

Robbing, looting, killing is common across the country and worst in the capital Juba where people who fled crisis in the countryside have no source of livelihood.

Unguarded and unsuspecting, the boda boda drivers have become easy prey for criminals.

But boda boda rider Robert Olwoch said the robberies and killings is making their work difficult.

“You cannot trust any passenger anymore because they can turn to be the one who will kill you,” Olwoch told Juba Echo.

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