News / Africa

Uganda Fears ‘Unprecedented’ Rise in Mob Justice

A lack of trust in Uganda’s judicial system and a backlog in its courts likely is fueling an apparent rise in violent mob justice, a human rights commission says in calling for a study.
 
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) reports an "unprecedented" jump in anecdotes about mob justice, so it seeks hard data about its incidence and a thorough investigation into its causes. It seeks definitive answers.
 
Mob justice leads to serious violations of human rights, says Katebalirwe Irumba, a commissioner.
 
"It is against our constitution and against the laws of this country, especially as it denies the victims of mob justice the opportunity to be taken [through] the due process of law and to be heard," Irumba says.
 
For instance, at Namuwongo fish market in the capital city of Kampala, vendors laugh and haggle with customers as they scale and chop fresh tilapia. The scene is peaceful enough, but Andrew Wafula, who sells fish, knows this is not always the case.
 
"Every Tuesday, that is a market day, and people sell things there. Thieves always come, and if they come they steal small things," Wafula says.
 
An accusation of theft sends the whole market into a murderous rage. Wafula says venders and others will chase a suspect and, "if we catch him, we have to hit him to death. That’s the way we do it."

What's driving mob violence?
 
No one knows the exact reason for the reported rise in violence, although Irumba speculates that youth unemployment and frustration are probable factors.
 
Wafula gives another reason: a widespread lack of confidence in a justice system that can easily be bought off by a suspect with a little cash to spare.
 
If a suspect “has his people who have some money, they pay something, very little,” Wafula says. “Then they say, ‘Instead of taking him to the prison, let’s set him free.’  If he reaches the hands of police, he will not be punished.”
 
Gerald Abila, a lawyer who works with the poor, says most Ugandans do not see the formal justice system as a realistic way to solve their problems.
 
“If you look at upcountry and rural areas,” he says, “people usually go to courts as an option of last resort.  They will not go to the court system immediately.”
 
Legal backlog blamed

Part of the problem, Abila says, is an enormous legal backlog that makes many cases almost impossible to process in a timely manner.
 
Without any new cases, “using the current systems in place, it would take over 30 years to deal with the cases that are already in the justice system,” Aliba says.
 
The result is that in Uganda, getting caught for a crime such as theft can mean a death sentence – carried out immediately, without a trial.
 
But even as a market vendor, Wafula says he understands the logic that drives someone to steal: “Demand of school fees, demand of food, demand of everything.  He may think that ‘If I steal this bike and I sell it, I think I will pay the school fees of my daughter and sons.’”
 
The UHRC wants to teach the public that mob justice is itself a criminal act. It recommends that police be more rigorous in prosecuting those who attack suspected thieves.
 
But until Ugandans can better feed their families, Wafula says, there will be more thieves – and mobs will always be there to chase them.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid