All God's Children Deserve Justice



This morning, I woke up with a headache. I asked my wife if she could drop the kids at school. She said yes. I took one look at her tired face. I changed my mind. I wobbled out of the couch where I'd spent the night and went looking for a pair of shorts. It is just another day. The kids got into the car, and off we went.

The road from Kokrobite to the famous old barrier is not one designed for cars. It feels more suited for horses and antelopes. My kids were singing "Lala lala la" in many different renditions, which didn't necessarily harmonise with the clanging and tinkling sounds seeping out from the bottom of my car, as it kissed each pothole I couldn't swerve. Most mornings are like this.

In the midst of this monotonous morning, one big distraction happened. Up the hill that leads down to the old barrier, I saw a group of people gathered around a naked man lying in a gutter. I quickly sped on to prevent my kids from witnessing the horrible sight. Fortunately for me, they were too engrossed in their song.

On my way back, the size of the crowd had increased. A police man, on a dilapidated motorbike, who had sped past me had already arrived at the scene.  When I got there, he was talking about how three of these robbers had robbed and raped a young married woman in the neighbourhood recently.  He was furious that the guy was still alive. He started tapping his pockets, looking for something. Finally he ended our curiosity by saying he was looking for his pepper spray. He wanted to spray some into the thief's wounds so he can feel pepper. Shortly after his rants, the police truck arrived. They, obviously were disappointed that the thief was alive. One of them yelled at the crowd: "Why do you guys keep doing this? If you've caught a thief, why don't you just kill him? Why do you beat them half-dead and then dump them on us? If you had killed him, all we'd have to do is dump him at the mortuary!"

I asked the people around if any of them knew for certain that the guy was a thief. None knew for certain but they all agreed he definitely looked like one. They said he had been dumped in the gutter around 2am. He had been calling for Joyce to come to see him before he dies. I wondered who Joyce was?

I didn't hear him utter a word whilst I was there, so everything I heard, I heard from bystanders. One guy said he had been robbed recently; and if the Police hadn't arrived he would have dropped a cement block on the thief's head. He said most of these thieves come in the afternoon when the neighbourhood is quiet and everybody is at work. Another lady said this particular thief had come to spy the neighbourhood out recently. He had come to eat at one of the "chop bars" around and an old man, had warned them that the guy looked evil.

There are two main reasons why people take the law into their hands: When they can't trust the system; and when they know they can get away with it. I believe the pursuit of justice is innate and we all would love that the bad nuts in society are properly punished for their crimes but I hope more people will pause for just a second before they hurl a stone or knife at "a thief" and ask themselves: "What if he isn't a thief?"

About 17 years ago, I was nearly lynched at North Kaneshie, in Accra, where I had gone to visit my friend Patrick. I was in a batick shirt. A young girl screamed in my direction and said: "There he is! The Thief!" I had the presence of mind not to run and look at the girl. She took another look at me and said "Oh, that's not him but the thief is also in a batick shirt". Fortunately for me, that incident happened at noon, so she could properly make me out. Imagine if it had been at night. Imagine if I had panicked and started running. Imagine how many innocent people get killed in the gutters and streets of Africa everyday because someone mistook them for a thief?
Just for the sake of the one person who might be innocent, we need to stop this barbaric, lawless act of jungle justice.  All God's children deserve justice.

11 comments:

Jacqui Nsiah 20 February 2014 17:24  

Thanks for sharing this. It is an issue close to my heart as I have witness the lynching of an apparent thief on one of my visits to Ghana in 2001 near Makola Market. That very incident traumatised me. I am glad that I am not the only feeling strongly about this. More people should read and reflect upon this, it is very simple. I am surprised that in a country where so many people are so deeply religous can commit, well yeah, commit such a crime.

seyramdeka 20 February 2014 20:31  

Sad...very sad...thanks for sharing, Nana.

Anonymous 20 February 2014 20:32  

Sad...very sad...thanks for sharing...

Anna 20 February 2014 21:07  

This is so sad and shocking. I agree with your analysis that a weak system makes people to take justice in their own hands and they can get away with it like that. Still everyone can stop and think: what if this guy would be your brother, uncle or friend... Would you treat him this way?

Nana, do you know what happened to him?

Jemila Abdulai 20 February 2014 21:44  

This culture of not questioning things will be our undoing. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous 20 February 2014 22:51  

The most important thing about this story is; what happened to the man afterwards?
You didn't say, so the story is just uncorroborated sensationalism to me.
Sorry about that.

Efo Dela 21 February 2014 07:24  

Mob justice scares me a lot. Especially given that in Ghana, no one would care to verify if u are actually a thief if someone screams "JULOR" at you

Anonymous 21 February 2014 08:43  

Good debate; grateful for the opportunity to comment but what is the way forward, my dear compatriots?How do we avoid such events from recurring? Let us go beyond the commiseration and offer suggestions to make things better.

frederick adjei 21 February 2014 08:45  

The scariest part of this issue is the interventi on of the law enforcers... See How the "victim" is tied and hurled into the back of the van.. No ambulance... No Assistance to a wounded Man... I leave what else Will happen to him to Your imagination.

Nabil Ahmed Rufai 21 February 2014 18:41  

Thanks for reminding us about such unfortunate situations: instant justice

Abu Haruna 23 February 2014 06:52  

Nana please you are a journalist did you find out which hospital did the law enforcement took the victim to and what happened to him, clearly this is human rights abuse. Nana it will enrich the discussion if probably you can do a follow up for us for purpose of evidence.

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