A by-product of a corrupt police force is what is known as mob justice (civilians taking the law into their own hands) here in Uganda. This is something that I hear of regularly but have always wondered or feared what my reaction may or may not be.
Our neighbour is not known for her temper or aggression, although with the help of another neighbour we had the experience of witnessing both of these attributes turned up to 100%, aimed squarely at a local village youth who at this stage was under suspicion of stealing her mobile phone. There were punches, kicks and beatings with whatever they could lay their hands on; that included sticks, shoes and, most worrying, a sharp piece of metal (local slasher). When I arrived he was bleeding from his head, was stripped half naked and had very predominant welts on his back and legs. I tried to reason with them but with the heightened emotional state of the crowd that had now formed, that become impossible.
To my surprise, while I was trying to reason with them he admitted stealing the phone and told them he would show them where he had hidden it…which he did!
I left feeling quite chuffed with myself that I had helped resolve this issue and tension…
Unfortunately that wasn’t the end. I later asked our neighbour what happened after they found the phone. “We beat him seriously and then took him to the police”, was her response. I was interested to hear the Police response (Police are an enigma… to put another way, a waste of time!), their response was: “you should have beaten him more before bringing him here!”
Not many people have any faith in the police force or justice system in Uganda and unfortunately for good reason, Often the so-called justice is carried out by the victims or victims’ family.
This boy was lucky as it often ends in hospitalisation or death.