Saturday, 18 April 2009

Mob Justice

Yesterday I forgot my phone in the office, so I had to come get it just in case. Took a matatu to Wandegeya and was walking towards the office when I saw a crowd gathered around a shop on the road that goes to Mulago Hospital. On drawing closer, I could hear a lady screaming, so I went all the way to the front. Inside the shop was one mama with a thick stick hitting another mama who was screaming and begging, occasionally getting onto her knees. My Luganda is still a work in progress so I couldn’t tell what she was saying. At first I thought they were fighting over a man. The mama with the stick was undressing her so that one of her boobs was hanging out as she (the stick-holder) struggled to get the other mama’s skirt off. From what I could tel, some people were saying ‘don’t undress her’, while others were shouting ‘undress here!’ There was also a man standing guard at the entrance so no one could actually go in and help. From what I could gather, the lady-in-beating had stolen lots of money; in fact the stick-holding one was waving several wallets in the air, opening some and asking if she was the one in the pictures inside? Anyway, I felt sorry for the poor mama who had allegedly stolen and was now being publicly humiliated. So I requested them ‘muyitire polisi bambi’ (call the police for her, please), as were some two other men beside me. They responded that she has stolen too much and the police will do nothing, really. So ask, ‘sente meka-how much money? I can pay and you let her go with me?’ while attempting to go in and grab her arm. The dude standing by the entrance pushed me out, asking me if I know here and informing me that she has stolen far too many times. When the mama-in-beating saw I was kinda trying to help, she was like ‘nyambako bambi’-help me please. Then one dude behind me asked me ’how much do you have? She has stolen about 500,000’. Like we could bargain. Not that I walk around Ksh 20K in my wallet, but even I doubted the guy was the one she stole from. Anyway, I got out of the crowd, asked a boda boda guy how far the police station is, and he offered to take me there for UGX 1,000. It was like 2 minutes away. I get to the police station, tell the story, and after a bit of arguing among the officers on who should go (“I’m not in uniform”. “It doesn’t matter you can just take a gun” etc etc) the uniformed officer I was talking to asked me to get boda bodas to take us to the scene. So I go out and call 2 boda boda drivers, but then officer changes his mind and decides we are better off walking. We get there, they take the mama, and the wallets, and me, I proceed to the office, log onto face-book, only to find a Nairobi magistrate has lost his life to mob justice in a case of mistaken car identity.


coldtusker said...

I am ambivalent about your actions. Whereas I sorta feel sorry for the woman you saved, if she was a thief well... nothing like instant justice.

I have been robbed in the past. And once held at knife-point... very scary. If I had a gun, I would shot the guys. In the face.

Jana, a guy almost snatched an envelope from a passenger who was in the same moving vehicle as I was. Scary!

CPK said...

You mean even in Kampala there are petty thugs. What about the guards usually armed with guns, or this is not enough deterrence?

kenyanreality said...

You are good people PKW.

kenyanreality said...

@coldtusker - you are cold.

PKW said...

ColdTusker: I feel ya-In Dec I found a guy in Nairobi being nyahunyo'd for stealing 100bob from a mama who was selling fruit on the pavement at 10pm at night with her three kids, and didn't feel the least bit sorry for him.
CPK: It ain't nothing close to the petty (or otherwise) thuggery in Nairobi, but I betcha, there are petty thugs here too.
KR: I try, sometimes.