Mob Justice Perpetuates Injustice


January 4 , 2020 . By Eden Sahle



I was waiting for my brother around Black Lion Hospital last week when I became witness to the administration of mob justice in clear daylight.

It was all but a normal day when suddenly I heard a group of people shouting and storming their way toward a young man who was barely outrunning them. The man was caught and instead of taking him to the authorities, the group immediately began beating him within an inch of his life. As the group grew more violent, so did their numbers.

Allegedly, the man had tried to pickpocket a mobile phone. He was, in the eyes of the mob, a criminal. There is a certain sense of inspiration to be found in how strangers on the street banded together in solidarity against a man they believed to have committed a crime against a fellow citizen.

At the same time, there was also something to be learned from how violent these supposed Good Samaritans were even after the man confessed his crime and remained completely defenseless. Even as some of us pleaded with the mob to give the man a break, they reveled in continuing to play judge, jury and executioner.

The tragedy did not stop there. A traffic police officer noticed the fray and came over to investigate what happened. Those of us who were offended by the mob’s violence were relieved to see a man in uniform, someone who had been assigned to keep public order. At this point, the alleged thief was barely conscious, with his face already swollen and bleeding from a cut on his face.

To our horror, the traffic police officer did not volunteer to call the police or stop the violence. He joined the mob in kicking and punching the guy until they all got tired of him and left him on the ground. Limping, the man slowly made his way to Black Lion Hospital.

The crowd that had gathered dispersed quickly and everyone went about their business. It was a normal day, and the sight of an alleged thief getting beaten by a mob has long ceased to generate public outcry.

The mob’s outrage is understandable to a certain degree. Poverty, unemployment, rising inequality and the breakdown of law and order in many parts of the country has led to an increase in crimes. Innocent people have lost their hard-earned earnings and possessions to thieves who - surreptitiously during daytime hours and freely during the night - roam the streets.

Just in the past five months, 84 cars were reportedly stolen in Addis Abeba alone. It may seem like a small amount in a city where there are hundreds of thousands of cars, but taken in with the general incompetence of the security apparatus, it is easy to feel frightened.

Fear and irrational anger go hand-in-hand. In the absence of effective policing, it is no wonder that people are taking the law into their own hands. The growing number of crimes constitute a serious challenge to everyone’s safety that deserves to be met with a strong, and yet responsible, reaction. For mobs that elect to become judge, jury and executioners not to proliferate, the actual judges, juries and executioners should become effective at their job.

The best way to prevent crime is to be aware of the potential risks and stay alert to the situations that make people vulnerable. This is of course not a problem law enforcement bodies can solve single-handedly but one that requires the effort of the City Administration by attempting to address unemployment and acute poverty.

It would also help to have crime prevention, reporting programmes and strategies, targeting changes in awareness and preparedness. This should include public awareness campaigns and training programmes for police officers on the legal treatment of suspects and criminals.

Encouraging and supporting community policing would be an even better initiative. This includes inviting the public to work closely with law enforcement officers and agencies. Police and community activities must be well-planned, prepared, implemented and analysed with the intention of not just apprehending criminals but preventing crime.

A properly planned and executed strategy would allow improved planning of long-term financing from the government's budget, as well as efficient logistics and enhanced human resources management to support crime prevention systems.

One of the main elements of law enforcement policy should be to eliminate criminal activities and enhance public wellbeing. Given the wide range of causes of crime, preventive measures are likely to touch on education and employment as well.

The government focus should be in reducing the incidence of crime and increasing the public perception of safety. This will save us from the daily sights of mobs administrating justice to individuals suspected of theft.



PUBLISHED ON Jan 04,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1027]



Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law and international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.






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