In the nick of time, the reality of mob justice in Kenya
Have you had an experience of mob justice? Is it a case of paranoia or failed justice systems? Are these actions that are justifiable? Can they be stopped? Well, in Kenya today, it is an experience so well known to many. Most Kenyans have either, been involved, seen one happen or have been victims of this kind of abuse. Just to imagine this can happen to you is a chilly affair. But it does. Walking the streets and having someone say Mwizi! Mwizi! (Thief! Thief!), can be a nightmare on itself. So many people have died on this platform of false pretense and street justice.
Mwangi, (name withheld) is a fourth form student at Aquinas High School in Nairobi. On this day, he went to his aunty’s home in Kariobangi South Estate on the outskirts of Nairobi only to find the doors locked. She had gone to visit Mwangi’s nephew at school on that day. A case of naivety, he says leads him to a flat where he goes to the top most floor, apparently, to search for a house for a cousin of his.
What follows next is a blood wrenching experience, none of us would want to see not even hear about. A woman resident now screams for help. She accuses Mwangi of attempting to snatch off her wallet. In a split of instinct, Mwangi breaks into a sprint. His feet fail to heed to the distress call and soon the crowd catches up. Blows and punches follow, the now growing crowd baying for his blood.
Before it gets worse, a man in the crowd intervenes and tries to calm the crowd. They drag the boy back to the flat and start to interrogate him. He reveals the contacts of relatives. They proceed to call his brother, who lives in Kasarani Estate, 9 kilometers away. They threaten to lynch the boy lest somebody shows up and quick.
His brother Njoroge (name withheld), rushes to the scene and in minutes, he is there. Unfortunately, his dreadlocked head does no good in an attempt to save his brother. They still want assurance that Mwangi is not whom they think he is. Njoroge gets the two story versions but Mwangi is not free yet. The crowd demands that his aunt gets there. Meanwhile, the man in the crowd calls his father in Eldoret City, about 500 miles from the capital, Nairobi. The grief stricken father tries to contact Mwangi’s aunt Mrs. Macharia (name withheld). With breaking down phone lines, communication proves difficult. All the same the message is
On the meantime, Mrs. Macharia is in a matatu (Kenyan taxi) coming from Nanyuki (A city near Mt. Kenya). A traffic jam has rendered the road impassible. She is unable to get to the flat. Confused and shaken, she decides to alight from the matatu and starts to walk, sprint then walk again. Frantically sweating, she finally gets to the flat.
At this time, Mwangi’s lips are swollen and cracks of dried blood are evident. His red eyes tell it all. Remorse engulfs him as he tries to tell his side of the story. In tears, he apologizes to the crowd and they finally let the case go. That is a day in Nairobi.