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Friday, 13 October, 2000, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Is mob justice acceptable?

Kenya has been gripped lately by mob hysteria and lynching over cases of suspected child abductions.

News and Information for Africa
It began in the capital Nairobi after the bodies of three girls, aged five, six and ten were found on wasteland in the city's poorest suburbs.

But mob justice is not limited to Kenya alone and is said to have taken place in other African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria.

Why are people taking the law into their own hands and killing suspects or even innocent people? How can this violent mob justice be stopped? Tell us what you think.

A selection of your emails will be broadcast on Focus on Africa during the 1705 edition on Saturday


Change can only come when the administrators adhere to and respect the law

Charles L. Pule Mofaledi, South Africa
Any frustrated society will always resort to mob justice when the arm of the law is hopelessly short, when it has only three fingers, and the whole body is hungry and inadequately trained. Rampant corruption in the corridors of government cannot do a thing about this situation (as wrong and uncivil as it is) because they often instigate civil unruliness to deter people from focusing on the government's incompetence. Change can only come when the administrators adhere to and respect the law.
Pule Mofaledi, South Africa

Mob justice in Kenya is mostly meted out by hooligans who pretend to champion justice yet their main aim is to cause disturbance so they can loot property in the ensuing disturbances. The law enforcers should arrest such thieves. A mob is made up of individuals. Countries like Kenya should invest in close circuit surveillance to help net such villains who cause more trouble than the initial law breakers!
Andrew Limo, Kenya

They can no longer trust the legal system

Charles L. Massaquoi, Malmo, Sweden
The people in Africa and other parts of the world are taking the law into their own hands because they can no longer trust the legal system. Those who benefit from the legal system are the rich. Now I can understand why the poor man does not bother about social justice. He or she will never get a fair trial.
Charles L. Massaquoi, Malmo, Sweden

The correct term for it is mob violence and not mob justice. Any victim in such a case is always found guilty and receives nothing less than an instant death sentence. Only improvement in our Kenyan judicial system can save us from this social shame.
Evelyn Ndenga, Kenya

Innocent people are being lynched in Nairobi

Anne Nangulu, Kenya
Lynching or mob justice for that matter, should not be allowed in any country let alone Kenya in the 21st century. The Kenyan government should come up with a permanent solution to this inhuman act. Innocent people are being lynched in Nairobi among other parts of the country in the name of mob justice. Attorney General Amos Wako is wasting time and government resources making trips to the Middle East, trying to cover up the "rape" of Kenya by high ranking officials through the infamous Goldenburg, instead of streamlining the judiciary system to serve Kenyans according to the law of the land. The judiciary system, just as other government departments, are riddled with corruption and it is not surprising that people have taken the law in their own hands.
Anne Nangulu, Kenya

The issue is mob injustice, not mob justice. It should not be acceptable in any way. Suspects as per the law are presumed innocent until proved guilty. However, the judicial system in Kenya is in an appalling state. The independence of the judiciary has never been respected. The doctrine of separation of powers has never worked in that country and it is worse at this particular moment. I guess this is the reason Kenyans have taken the law into their own hands and execute suspects through lynching. But what does one expect of a judicial system which still believes in capital sentence?
Maina Mutonya, South Africa

When people take the law into their own hands, it is another expression of a lack of confidence in the ability of civil authorities to control crime because of a lack of training, indifference, or corruption.
Philip, USA

I think "mob justice" is symptomatic of failure of the political system to deliver on people's needs. People want security, justice and an opportunity to make a living. Unfortunately, when these needs are not met, they then resort to vigilante groups, kangaroo-courts and theft.
Garth, Zimbabwe

Having witnessed firsthand "mob justice" in Kenya, I absolutely condemn this barbaric act which is due to the incapability of the Kenya Police and high level of corruption which sees many criminals walk free after small handouts forcing the public to take the law in their own hands !
Amjad Deen, Kenyan, staying in Prague Czech Republic

"Shoot first and ask questions later" does not equal justice.
Helen, USA

Mob justice is absolutely unethical in African society

David W, A Sudanese in USA
Mob justice is absolutely unethical in African society where ethnic, racial, religious, and tribal differences exist. Mob justice has claimed thousands of innocent suspects lives in East Africa, South Africa and West Africa. A suspect does not have the right to defend his innocence and many minor crime which do not constitute the death penalty have occurred and are continuing to happen in Africa.
David W, A Sudanese in USA

No, mob justice is not acceptable. Often the people acting out these violent acts have more of a vendetta against an individual or group of people than any interest in "justice." Need we be reminded of how here in the USA, all a white woman would have to do, at one time, was mention that she was looked at "the wrong way" by a black man, and then scores of black people would be lynched and brutalised. The phrase "mob justice" is an oxymoron.
Randall Collins, USA

Mob justice can not be used in any civilised to society. But in places where justice is sold to the highest bidder in Africa, people have no choice but resort to mob justice. As sad as that is, it is unfortunately the only way many Africans get the justice they deserve.
Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone

Mob or vigilante actions can be regarded as an indirect expression of the people's lack of confidence in those who are responsible for maintaining law and order in these societies. People may take the law into their own hands if those responsible fail to perform. Afterall, the people made the law. The solution lies in tracing the sources of the two-dimensional problem. First, why are people involved in child abduction? This may be related to poverty. Secondly, stem the large-scale corruption in the police and other security forces. This will renew people's confidence in them.
Dammy Olajide, Australia

In every major town, and lately even in rural areas, Kenyans have applied this form of justice on mainly witches and petty thieves. As far as it concerns the guilty culprits getting the wages of their crimes, I fully support it. It is unfortunate that innocent people often get hurt or even killed. I don't believe that Kenyans are that bloodthirsty as to enjoy killing their compatriots but our justice system just doesn't seem to work leaving them with no option but to take the law in their own hands.
Ndung'u Ndegwah, Kenya

Many law enforcers have failed to deliver and people have to live with the fear that they are not well protected

Clement Chiwaya, Malawian studying in USA
Mob justice is barbaric and unacceptable. However it is my own view that people resort to it when they are frustrated. Many law enforcers have failed to deliver and people have to live with the fear that they are not well protected. In other cases law enforcers have forged alliances with criminals and this has reduced the confidence that people have in them. It's time we reviewed the way our law enforcers work in Africa, and maybe give them enough resources otherwise many more people will get killed on mere suspicion of having committed a crime.
Clement Chiwaya, Malawian studying in USA

The collapse of the institution of justice has seen Kenyans take the law into their own hands. But then the term "mob justice" is wrong because it gives the impression that there is "justice" in what a mob does.
John Kamau, Kenya

The reason mostly is that if a criminal is captured and handed over to the police, they buy their way out of detention and become worse as is the case in Nigeria, Policemen have been known in the past to aid and abet crime. Even when information is given to the police, they will leak it out to criminals who will then attack the informant.
Moore Evelyn, Nigeria

The average individual feels a deep sense of frustration on law issues

Steve, USA
Mob justice if 'justice' is the right word, is motivated by feelings of hopelessness, that the bodies set up to support and administer justice have failed. With Africa's track record of corrupt and incompetent administrations it is no wonder that the average individual feels a deep sense of frustration on law issues. Only when the "elected" representatives of government can bring themselves to respect the law, will confidence start to grow. Zimbabwe for example, is a powder keg waiting to explode. In Kenya, we hear tales of a corrupt and incompetent police force, which may not be true or accurate but due to the failure of the senior police administrators to communicate with the 'man on the street', rumours can be easily spread! The solution: open communication with police representatives and a police force that is seen to address the public's concerns impartially.
Steve, USA

It is very simple. In Africa, we cannot depend on the police or legal authorities to provide justice, so we have no choice but to take it into out own hands. I think mob justice has its faults, but it will make you think twice before you commit a crime in public.
Chukwu, USA

The general public in Kenya has decided to take the law into their own hands because the system has let them down in all ways! It is common knowledge that the police in Nairobi are seriously short of resources and tools essential to do their work such as enough vehicles in working order and telecommunications equipment. Furthermore, corruption has caused the people to lose faith in the judicial system which has led to widespread cases of instant justice proclaimed on individuals suspected of committing crimes.
Mwoth, Kenya

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See also:

06 Oct 00 | Africa
Kenya lynch mob fears
06 Oct 00 | Africa
Kenya's vigilante problem
06 Oct 00 | Africa
Africa Media Watch
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