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Jungle Justice: Street Justice In Africa

Somewhere in Africa, many days of the year, someone is a recipient of jungle justice. This controversial practice of local judgment is popular interpreted as “mob justice or street justice.

In an article in sun newspapers, Okeke Onyebuchi describes justice as “fairness in the way people are treated”. Jungle justice on the other hand can be explained as a form of extra-judicial killing where the victim is deprived the rule of law and justice is meted out in a barbaric fashion usually through stoning or burning of the individual in the full glare of the public. In simpler words, jungle Justice is synonymous with Injustice which is “a situation in which people are treated very unfairly and not given their rights”.

The people who employ this practice usually pass their own judgment on an offender based on some locally understood code of conduct or standard of morality”.

The charade of this practice on the streets in many African countries calls to question the effectiveness of their individual judicial systems. It has become the fastest way to deliver justice to criminals and miscreants as it has been reported that sometimes the local police watch and do nothing.
For some writers like Mike Ikariale, jungle justice is the evidence of a failed state. He went further to argue that the steady decline in state authorities as well as loss of confidence in the judicial system encourages people to take laws into their hands.

Case Studies

According to Ofili, an award winning motivational speaker and writer of “how laziness saved my life“, he explains how mob justice has become “institutionalized” in Nigeria and even other African countries. Although, statistics are not readily available to ascertain the actual percentage of jungle justice, however, most of the cases are found in Africa especially in Sub Sahara Africa.

On October 5th, 2012, Chiadika Lordson, Kelechi Obuzor, Lloyd Toku and Tekena Erikena, all students at the University of Port-Harcourt, Nigeria were falsely accused of theft and severely beaten and burnt to death as scores of Nigerians stood and watched.

Recently, another incident took place in Ejigbo, where some women were accused of stealing pepper; they were molested and bathed with pepper as their punishment.

Away from Nigeria, on the 8th of October 2013, a lynch mob killed three Nigerians in Guinea Bissau, who were accused of child kidnap in Bissau.

In South Africa, the xenophobic attacks witnessed is not far from jungle justice. Due to frequent deprivation of justice, mob justice has become the order of the day

A 9-year old Ethiopian boy’s right hand was amputated, because he stole two oranges from a marketplace. He was later adopted by an Afram couple from Baltimore Maryland.

Several cases of elderly Kenyans being burned to death as witches fill the media with terror frequently.

A heartbreaking story of a 12 year old boy who was burnt alive for kidnapping an infant. This is a double tragedy because he was barely in his teens; also, the person who influenced and coed him into the act will never be known. His own side of the story remains untold.

Shocking as it may be, the police force often times are either involved or are leaders of mob justice. On many occasions it has been reported that policemen shoot indiscriminately at helpless civilians who have not gone through any judicial proceedings to prove their guilt or innocence.

Perceived As A Better Alternative?

There are several reasons why jungle justice has become a better alternative to the judicial system. Many writers argue that the first reason is the failure of a country’s judicial system. Often times, citizens lose confidence in the judicial process and hence crudely and barbarically dispense justice. If a person is sure that a criminal will get what he deserves, this practice will be frowned at. But the reverse is sadly the case. The state has lost its legitimacy and credibility, hence, citizens take up the responsibility of dispensing justice which otherwise should not be in their jurisdiction.

Many a times, mob justice is meted on the poor underprivileged underclass who do not deserve the death sentence. While corrupt politicians and public office holders steal from the state and are celebrated, petty criminals are decorated with tyres and burnt to death. Therefore it is commonly believed that proper justice isn’t served.

Joblessness and lack of motivation makes people come to a place where they have little or no value for human life. An article in the vanguard newspaper concurred by saying that if premium value is placed on human life, mob justice would never be an option.

Jungle Justice Is No Justice At All

Okeke Onyebuchi, a lawyer and writer, has said that “jungle justice is no justice at all”. This is because the issues surrounding the victims of such acts largely remain unsolved. Most Africans roam the streets with the fear of not knowing who the next recipient of this “mob justice” will be. It’s prevalence has become a justification for several western critics to conclude that mob justice is a black mans curse and that it is impossible for the black race to live peacefully in civilized society.

Many Africans yearn for a society where justice and fairness is the order of the day, a place where everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, where the rule of law and constitutionalism is at work.

In all this, despite the prevalence of mob justice, has crime rate dwindled?

Is human life really worthless to Africans?

Does jungle justice deliver punishment in accordance to the crimes committed?


[Header image]–    bolatitoblog

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