Jungle Justice: A Vicious Violation Of Human Rights In Africa


Jungle justice is the concept and act of disregarding the rule of law and taking matters into one’s hands; more clearly put, it is the act of handing suspected criminals over to the hands and mercy of an angry mob. Two wrongs don’t make a right, not now, not ever. At least every criminal in the law court is considered innocent till proven guilty. With the increasing rate of jungle justice, it is feared that people will begin to see life as nothing to be preserved. Has jungle justice reduced the level of crimes perpetuated in the community? The answer is no; it never will.  As  matter of truth, burning and gruesomely degrading human beings is a greater evil; it is an outright violation of human rights. Jungle justice reduces human life and dignity to zero and this is why some people can afford to call Africans barbarians.

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The sadly amazing part of this barbaric act is that people seem to be entertained by it. I’ve often wondered, if we can have people around such scenes, taking pictures and making videos, why is it that hard to have people who would vehemently refuse the act being done. Perhaps they try to get weak or rather scared for their own lives. In some occasions, the police force are involved but the opposite response was gotten. They act lackadaisical over the matter, sometimes even supporting the mob or the worst kind, becoming the lead characters in the madness. In any case I believe it will do everybody a whole lot of good if there was a sort of regulation of what goes into the media; seems to be doing more harm than good. It corrupts more than it ‘supposedly’ deters people.

Bangui, Central African Republic: I was heading back to the hotel to file after a ceremony in Bangui, where the interim president had promised to reinstate the country's armed forces, urging for national unity. I was in the taxi for just a few minutes when my fixer asked me to come back as people were attacking and killing a man.  The crowd was in a violent, bloodthirsty frenzy and I tried to stay alert; an angry crowd can be dangerous, unpredictable and very scary, something I had unfortunately witnessed there before. The lifeless body of the victim, suspected of having joined the former Seleka rebel group, was being dragged, kicked, stabbed and pelted with rocks by Central African Republic soldiers.   Although no one noticed the journalists, I didn't feel like witnessing the lynching for a moment longer than I thought necessary. I must have stayed at the scene for no more than ten minutes.    I don't believe that photographers should ever get used to witnessing such violence and the event definitely affected me. Still, during these situations, I try to protect myself by not allowing certain memories to linger in my mind too long. I believe this picture is a strong reminder of how deep the thirst of revenge runs in the country and how difficult it will be for any internal or external force to stabilize and bring long lasting peace in the Central African Republic. Caption: A Central African Army soldier stabs the corpse of a man, who was killed as he was accused of joining the ousted Seleka fighters, in the capital Bangui, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Seigfried Modola

A while ago, the world frowned at the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. It is not far from the culture of jungle justice, “since they can’t do anything about it, let’s do it ourselves, our own crude way”. Generally speaking, mob justice is the trait of a people with long deprivation of justice; it shows a fault in the legal/justice system of Africa. Call it distraction, or simply nonchalance, but the leaders of some African nations have succeeded in sowing gross distrust in the lives and minds of her citizens, by denying them justice. There is a clear problem of lack of confidence and trust in the government and governance of the leaders. If you were sure that the man who stole from you or committed a crime against you will be duly penalized regardless of (political) influence or affluence, mob justice will virtually not be birthed in the system. People will firmly have the justice systems as their back ups. Efforts are being made to reduce or abolish capital punishments but some others are busy burning and publicly dehumanizing others. It is indeed despicable.

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If we had a reliable criminal justice system, sanity plus precious lives and properties will not be lost. Some thugs have been set free because of the services they render to dubious politicians who must have their way either by hook or by crook. Advocating for a zero jungle justice, does not in any way suggest taking sides with obvious criminals but simply preaching the gospel of respecting all lives no matter whose it is- sinners or saints. Treating defaulters the same way they treat people makes no difference and no impact, it only sends a wrong message. It will be assumed that we are all the same but the only difference is that the table just turned. Of course the table will be turned alright, but in what sense? With Mob justice, there is barely a chance to save that life through transformation.

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It is true that some people have actually gone too far with crime that it seems they deserve it and much more, but then nobody has the right to take anybody’s life. The idea of having correctional facilities is to promote rehabilitation, reason? Every citizens’ life and well-being matters. They are better off alive and repented than brutally killed in the streets. If we support mob justice then the fight against rebels and terrorist groups is a hypocritic venture because we all speak the same language, we disregard life and its potentials. Someone once asked, if you knew Adolf Hitler as a child and somehow you saw through him – you saw all the horrible things that he would do to humanity-  will you be able to kill him, even as a child? Very many people will say yes but in truth might not be able to do that. Some others will hope that he would definitely change as he grows, probably in a specially administered upbringing. It’s true what they say, you don’t throw the baby away with the bath water.

As bad as anyone is, I’m sure if they knew better, and had better opportunities, they would not resort to doing things that have had others ruthlessly killed in public. Every justice system knows the importance of the utilitarianism of punishing people rather than the temptation of promoting the ‘eye for an eye’ retributive justice- which does lesser good to the society. Offenders need to be punished so that they can change or at least be an example to someone else. A transformed criminal is the most efficient and practical gospel anyone can preach or hear.

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The tragedy of mob justice is that it is always meted out to low-class offenders, petty thieves, at least most of the times. If mob/jungle justice is the way to go, what has happened to the corporate barbarians- politicians and government leaders who steal  from the treasury and never get punished what so ever. It’s a double-edged sword which affects the desperate common man who seem to have reached an elastic limit. While nothing excuses stealing or being a criminal, there are still sane ways of addressing the matter.

Quoting Okeke Onyebuchi, “jungle justice is no justice at all”, but a travesty of justice, since it does not guarantee fairness to anyone. It’s time for us to start “respecting” the rule of law. These days we have to worry about the possibility of killing children who steal and logically should be corrected. A heart breaking incident was reported of 12 Year Old Samuel, who was burnt for attempting to kidnap another child with money. This is twice as tragic, he was burnt, a child, barely in his teens, no one will ever know why he did what he did, or even who sent him. A child of that age must be under a superior influence of some sort. Who knows how many of them have been lured into the act, a lot of unanswered questions linger, but Samuel is dead and will never tell anyone his own side of the story. Everyone deserves to be heard, in fact we all have the right to fair hearing; it is a principle of natural justice.