A motorbike taxi rider in Uganda has died in a police station after setting himself on fire over the police refusal to release his motorbike to him. According to other riders, Hussein Walugembe refused to pay a bribe of $40 to get his bike released and out of frustration locked himself in one of the rooms and set himself ablaze with petrol in a water bottle.
An officer who was with him suffered minor injuries and it took others to put out the fire. The whole traffic department is currently under investigation for bribery, a police spokesperson said.
According to the BBC, 29-year-old Walugembe used his boda boda or motorbike taxi to deliver food to the police force as he was living in police quarters. Most unemployed Ugandans and many young men across Africa resort to boda boda as a means of survival.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, governments across the continent banned riders from carrying more than one passenger but some like Uganda have banned boda bodas from carrying passengers completely. However, riders can only transport goods and can work between 6.30am to 5pm local time.
In a bid to help a friend out, Walugembe lent him his motorbike who was caught flouting the rules as he was carrying a passenger last week. It was the subsequent follow ups to get his bike released that led to the self-immolation of Walugemebe.
An investigation has been launched into the incident and the conduct of the entire traffic department with regards to the case, the regional police spokesperson Paul Kangave said.
He added that the police force’s Professional Standards Unit will delve into the allegations hurled at the officers after vehicles that flout lockdown restrictions are impounded.
Although various lockdown restrictions in Uganda have been eased, those pertaining to boda bodas still hold as the government believes it is one of the fasted ways to spread the virus, the President announced in late June.
Most of the coronavirus cases reported in Uganda were among long-distance truck drivers and their contacts. The country has 900 confirmed cases with 847 recoveries and no deaths as yet.