NAIROBI, March 14 — Kenyan police said today they had arrested the suspected ringleader behind an assault on a female diplomat that sparked outrage and protests in the East African country. 

The young woman was attacked in daylight by a gang of motorcycle taxi riders—commonly known as boda-boda—after a traffic accident in the capital Nairobi earlier this month, police said.

Sixteen riders were rounded up last week after a viral video showed men grabbing at the woman’s clothing and groping her as she screamed for help from inside the car, whose door had been forced open.

But the alleged ringleader of the attack escaped through a sewer duct and evaded arrest until Monday when he was taken into custody in a town near the Tanzania border, some 430 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.


“He has been engaging detectives in hide and seek games until his arrest moments ago,” the Directorate of Criminal Investigations said in a statement, describing him as the “country’s most wanted suspect.”

Police said they “pounced on him as he tried to cross the border” and said he would be airlifted to Nairobi where “he will face justice.”

The riders also stole a phone during the scuffle, police said in court documents.


A Nairobi court on Thursday ordered the 16 riders arrested earlier to be remanded in custody for a fortnight to allow police time to complete investigations.

The attack sparked a furore in Kenya, with President Uhuru Kenyatta ordering a crackdown on motorcycle taxis. 

Sexual assault carries a penalty of up to life imprisonment while robbery with violence could attract a death penalty in the country.

Motorcycle taxi drivers in Kenya are typically young men and are notorious for breaching the highway code and assaulting drivers after collisions.

The two-wheelers are a popular mode of transport in East Africa’s economic powerhouse, which lacks a proper public commuter system.

There are at least 1.4 million motorcycles registered in Kenya, according to a 2018 government data, with the majority used as taxis. 

The riders have often been accused by campaign groups of snatch-and grab robberies and harassing other road users, with abuses often ranging from derogatory comments to rape.

Boda-boda riders were in 2019 classified as a “threat to national security” by an interior ministry research unit. — AFP