Vigilante justice in Africa is getting out of hand as political leaders get nastier

Farida Dawkins July 16, 2018
A youth is beaten with sticks after being accused of attempted theft in Monrovia, Liberia...VOA News

In African communities, it is not uncommon for citizens to take the law into their own hands. In many neighborhoods, basic resources are difficult to come by let alone justice being served in the correct and timely manner.  Law is an arduous process in this continent and many individuals are not only impatient but have grown weary of criminals getting their due.

There are several instances of “justice prevailing” in Africa that has gone all wrong:

In Diepsloot, South Africa, there is an extremely high rate of rape. So much so, citizens have reported that a person can be raped right in front of their spouse or partner. In one example, two men suspected of rape were burned in a garbage rubble, as law enforcement stands by. They are afraid to interfere as they believe it may cause a riot.

One of the men, named David publicly admitted to raping 21 to 24 women, including his ex-girlfriend. He has infected his ex-girlfriend and possibly others with HIV and when asked how he feels about others catching the deadly disease due to his actions, he responded “I feel okay,” “I feel good because I can’t die alone.”

David later reveals that he was also raped and sodomized at the age of 14 by members of the police force. His assailants treated him like he was “their wife.” David has not been arrested for his crimes. Neither were his rapists.

Read the next instances before you justify David’s killing.

On May 31, 2017, Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama was suspected of being a thief. Two old women met him while he was jogging on his usual trail and grew suspicious when they saw he placed a gun inside his pants.

He had then been posted in Denenkyira-Obuasi, the Upper Denkyira West District of the Central Region of Ghana to relieve a commanding officer from his post.

Instead of calling the police, an Assemblyman and two other men headed to the location where Captain Mahama was last seen running.

Before the incident could be reported to the police, Captain Mahama had already been lynched. It is documented that he suffered deep wounds on his head and his body was partially burnt.

50 individuals were arrested for the murder of Captain Mahama. So far, no one has been sentenced.

On October 5, 2012, the Aluu Four Lynching occurred. Four students at the University of Port Harcourt were killed by way of a necklace – a method which involves putting a rubber tire filled with petrol over the victim’s neck and burning them alive. The victims are often killed within twenty minutes, suffering a torturous death in the process.

Ugonna Obuzor, Toku Lloyd, Chiadika Biringa and Tekena Elkanah were friends and occasional roommates who banded together to settle a debt one of them had incurred.

The four were accused of attempting to rob the debtor of his cell phones and laptops.  A vigilante group was notified of the situation. The four were chased through the street, stripped naked, beaten and tortured, then dragged through the mud, had concrete slabs placed on their heads and were “necklaced.”

Elkanah’s sister tried to intervene but was overpowered by the angry and non-sensical crowd. She then tried to enlist help from other family members but by the time they arrived at the scene, Elkanah and his three friends were already dead.

The murder was taped and uploaded onto the internet where it went viral.

Chinewe Biringa, Chiadika Biringa’s mother stated, “I want them to know from beginning to end the barbaric nature with which they chose to hunt them down,” “Even your worse enemy should not be treated in such form in the 21st century that people are still behaving and killing human beings as if they were rats.” Biringa chose to have an open casket funeral service for her son.  She wanted his badly abused body to be visible and for all to see just how drastic the effects of justice taken into the wrong hands can be.

13 people were arrested in the Aluu Four case, including a police officer who inflamed the situation and may have participated in the killing.

Justice is getting expensive by the day in the African context as the legal systems are slow at delivering justice for the poor. This situation has created a ripple effect which has institutionalized vigilante justice whereby suspects are not given their right of being innocent until proven guilty.

Many innocent people have been killed for crimes they never committed on African streets. Despite the murders, justice is still delayed and the guilty are freed due to the massive problems facing the courts.

The justice system is backed by the state which is controlled by the executive arm led by the head of state. However, the focus of investment is the presidency and little goes to the judiciary which deals directly with the people. A poor court begets a poorly judged case and at length, serves as a justification for poor justice delivery.

The state is to blame for the killing of every innocent person in the streets if the appropriate mechanisms are not given their due to operate and serve as checks for instant justice. Politicians are still making empty promises and collecting their funds while their constituents are suffering.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: July 16, 2018


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