Photography

The Tyrant Bike Stickers of Uganda

In Kampala, boda boda drivers decorate their bikes with the faces of history's most evil men.

by Ariel Tagar
31 May 2018, 9:11am

A Hitler sticker on a boda boda in Kampala. All photos by Ariel Tagar.

The most common form of transportation in Uganda is the "boda boda", a bike-taxi that offers a cheap and speedy way to get around the country's congested roads.

In the capital, Kampala, boda drivers jazz up their bikes with a selection of stickers in the hope it'll attract passengers. Most are of fairly universal icons – Didier Drogba, Nelson Mandela, Lionel Messi – but others feature some of the nastiest figures in human history. Riding around the city, take a good look at the number-plates and chassis of various boda bodas, and you might spot Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or Uganda's very own Idi Amin looking back at you.

One driver tells me, "These are the baddest men on Earth; if you got them on your bike it shows you're not afraid of anything."

Many of these leaders are viewed differently in Uganda. Gaddafi is regarded as a great friend of the country; he funded Ugandan militias and invested heavily in the country, and was offered asylum in Uganda during the Arab Spring.

Osama Bin Laden is a polarising figure: al-Qaeda was responsible for a suicide bombing in Kampala during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, where 74 people died. On the other hand, his organisation has rooted itself in the country over the last decade.

Onlookers don't seem too alarmed by this whole trend. "Oh, these boda guys are just crazy," one mechanic tells me. Do people know about Hitler here? I ask. "He's the rich man from Europe," the man replies.

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motorbikes
tyrants