Is mob ‘justice’ really Justice? Is it the solution to increasing crime rate. There are situations where I would agree that it is. Like when someone is caught in the act, defiling a minor or a woman of age. I would understand when people act out of rage and beat up that savage. But there are some instances where it becomes an injustice.A thousand people have lost their lives in the hands of mobs, a thousand innocent lives. Simply because someone suspected they had done something wrong (sometimes they didn’t really do it). They end up being beaten up, and/or burnt to their death. How people get excited by the sight of blood is something I still can’t bring myself to comprehend. Have we just become wicked or simply bloodthirsty? When a mob lynches wrongdoers, is there a difference between the people in the mob and the actual wrongdoer? I don’t think so, at the end of the day they have all committed a crime. We blame it on the laxity in our justice systems and the inefficient law enforcement apparatus, but still it doesn’t justify the need for mob lynching. Arrogating ourselves the role of the punisher, issuing instant justice is rather hypocritical of us. We have all, in one way or the other, committed certain crimes secretly and luckily got away with it, what then gives us the right to give out punishment to others? If we all had to pay for our secret crimes would there be anyone walking this earth?
That said, let me fast forward to my story…
It’s one hot and dusty evening when I walk into the countryside bus terminal (Machakos), five years ago. I was traveling back to the village from Nairobi. A stream of bus scouts kept approaching me, persuading me to go to a specific bus, others were honest enough to tell me that that’s the only way they would get their commission. But my mind was set, I had a specific bus in mind – the hottest countryside baby on the road, Destiny Coach. When I got to where it was, dressed in the latest graffiti art and neon lights, I was home. To add more life, the ticketing guy turned out to be my classmate back when we were in primary school in the village. After booking me, we talked for a while and then he advised me to get inside the bus and pick the best seat before they were all occupied.
Inside, I chose a seat in the first row next to a lady I found already seated next to a window. After assuming my position beside her, we shook hands and then I got out my IDEOS smartphone from my pocket, plugged in it’s earphones and turned on some music. I was looking earn some points. For your information, IDEOS smartphone was an asset back then, smartphone was just hitting the Kenyan market, and being in possession of such a gadget was a plus.
A friend of mine texts me, asking me where I was and when I told him that I had booked a bus back to the village and was leaving at 9pm. It was still some minutes past seven so he suggested we meet up in town for supper before I left. I decided why not? I requested the lady beside me to watch my space as I rushed to pick something in town. She suggested I place something to mark the seat. Since I had no bag I decided to leave my coudroy jacket behind. I walked into town and met my friend and then at around 8:30pm, he offered to walk me back to the terminal.
On reaching, the bus was not at it’s parking spot. I asked one of the scouts and he offered to take me to the clearing exit where the bus was. I bade my friend and rushed behind the scout, pressing through sweaty masses of other travellers, scouts, touts, hawkers, idlers and petty thieves. Finally, we got to the ‘baby’ and I offered twenty shillings coin to the scout and he walked away after giving me a strong handshake. I got in and walked to my seat. To my shock, it was occupied already. This lady must be so dumb, I thought to myself.
‘Hey, where’s my jacket?’ I asked dejectedly.
‘You’ll give me back my phone!’ She shot back at me.
‘Are you nuts? Where’s my jacket?’ I demanded. She didn’t bother responding to my question. She stood up from her seat.
‘Conductor here he is!’ He called out at the front.
The intruder seated at my place remained calm. Bodies of hawkers pressed beside me as I stood in the alley. I was about to ask a third time for my jacket when someone grabbed me by the collar of my short sleeved shirt, cutting the words from my throat midway. I turned my eyes to see who the ‘joker’ was but I my eyes only met bloodshot eyes. The attempt turn my head around made my throat hurt and I felt like being cut off air. I gasped for air and returned my head to the initial position.
‘Where’s that lady’s phone?’ My captor asked. Saliva spurting out of his mouth and settling all over my face.I turned to the lady, my eyes almost popping out as I tried to get some air in and trying to speak.
‘Di…d I t…ake your …phone?’ I managed to ask with the little breathe I could get.
‘You stole my phone and went to sell it in town!’ She shouted back.
This was the craziest thing I ever heard my all life, being accused of stealing. Stealing a phone whose price must have been a quarter of the one I owned, this ridiculous. When I left she was typing on the phone. Before I could talk, someone slapped my head from the back. Then a punch followed. My captor stillof maintained his grip and tightened it occasionally to make me confess. He tried to slap me but I blocked it before it landed on my cheeks. I was now sorrounded , shouts of ‘Thief! Thief!’ rippled in the air inside the bus.
‘Let’s burn him’, a voice suggested. And it was chorused by the others.
I tried to plead with my captor that I was innocent. That I didn’t steal the phone in question. But I realised that the more I pleaded, the more guilty I looked to them. My fate was sealed.
‘We are used to you idiots. You are all always innocent. We are going to see how innocent you will after we set fire on you!’ Someone barked from behind me.
One guy ransacked my pockets and fished out my gadget and showed it to the lady if it was hers. She said no. The slaps rained on me in tandem with the questions about where the phone was. I decided to keep quiet and wait for my death. I always wondered how I would die, where and what I would be wearing on that fateful day. My guess had always been that I would die in a road accident. That day had finally come, I know knew how I was going to die. A painful and embarrassing death. I felt for my family and friends. What a shame I was going to leave them. Lynched by a mob snatching a phone. I thought of how they were going to learn about my death. An update would run under the screen of television news broadcast: A NOTORIOUS PHONE THIEF LYNCHED AT THE FAMOUS COUNTRY BUS TERMINAL! That would be me, a ‘notorious phone thief’. They would just ignore it or maybe say it deserved the thief right.
After some days when I didn’t make it home and my phone dead.A search would ensue. Only to discover that I was the ‘phone thief’.
I thought of a scenario where the police would intervene and handcuff me to the nearest Police station…Moroto… that is less than a hundred meters from where I was facing ‘justice’. They would hold me there for a while until I bought them some ‘tea’ before they could let me go.
My stream of thoughts were interrupted by someone’s voice ordering people off the bus. My captor loosened his grip and I looked back and I recognised that face. He had been down there with my friend, the ticket guy.
‘Aren’t you a passenger in this bus?’ He asked when he got to me. I gasped for air and told him that I was.’Show me your ticket!’ He demanded, but in a soft way. I reached for my shirt pocket and luckily it was there. I showed him and then he turned to the lady who had been accusing me. I remembered my phone but I couldn’t see any of the faces who had held me captive. But that didn’t matter now, I just escaped death.