Thursday, March 25, 2010



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya

In Nairobi just like in Kampala and Dar es Salaam, if you see people running after a pickpocket, do not run with him. Better still; don’t run in front of the suspect. He may just turn around and shout that you are the thief. And if he does, and members of the public respond, you will surely meet your maker that day.

This mob hysteria is what ends up being branded mob justice. This type of justice is never found in the corridors of justice or at police stations. The mob administers it its own way in its own style. The lynch mob may use rocks, wood or anything they can lay their hands on to inflict maximum pain on the victim. In other circumstances, they may set the victim ablaze by either dousing him in inflammable spirit or even tie an old tyre around the victim’s neck before setting it on fire.

What we in East Africa may never appreciate is that the lynch mobs come in many forms. Whereas the more obvious ones we know may be those that hunt for the village chicken thief, the village witch, the pickpocket that snatches a purse from an unsuspecting lady or a daring street urchin that targets unsuspecting tourists in our urban streets, there are other subtle lynch mobs we may never recognize in our midst.

The more subtle lynch mob are those operatives that go by many names. At times they call themselves human rights activists fighting for all forms of reforms and injustices, at other times championing the cause of the poor and disadvantaged.

In some cases they are the professional whistle blowers who are usually the first to unearth a scam and blow the cover to the rooftops. In almost all the cases where these white collar, savvy and well educated mob are in action, there is always a victim of repute or high standing involved.

In the Kenyan scenario, these scam hunters have made it their business to keep a tab on public servants in influential positions; which is a good and commendable thing. However, over the years, the same high priests of righteousness have never unearthed any scam in the NGO, Civil Society or even in the corporate world that I can remember in recent times. One wonders whether it is harder to detect graft in those other sectors or just that they simply preach water and drink water.

The Civil Society uproar against Kenya’s TJRC Chairman follows a series of similar high profile personalities that have met their wrath in recent years. Offices targeted for public demonstration have included Parliament, the Police Commissioner, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Finance, Minister for Information and Communication, Minister for Education, the Attorney General and the former Executive Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission among others.

However, high profile graft cases that have not earned the wrath of our high priests of righteousness have included William Ruto’s land case in court, land grabbing in Mau Forest, Grand Regency sale to Libyans by the Treasury, the Triton Oil scam, Ministry of Tourism and KTB cases of graft.

Incidentally, despite mega publicity that Golden Berg and Anglo Leasing attracted in both local and international media, no civil society group has ever demonstrated against such scams. And come to think of it; did our men and women demonstrate against two goons that invaded our country and held us hostage for nearly six months way back in 2006? Do you remember the Artur brothers? Yet they held demonstrations that lasted eight hours when a known violent Muslim cleric from Trinidad was being deported from Kenya!

This week I watched horror as a tale was being narrated on Citizen Television by a young mother that went through an ordeal we would never imagine in our lives.

During the mayhem of the 2007 election violence, the pregnant mother of ten children from Kibera slums started having labor pains. In her courage and amidst all the street violence, she braved the streets and found her way in to Kenyatta National Hospital Maternity Wing. On arrival, doctors determined that her case could not be a normal delivery. A caesarian operation it would be.

However, after the operation, doctors and nurses forgot to stitch her up! And before she knew, blood was all over her with her intestines falling on the ground!

One would like to call it madness, insanity, negligence with murderous intent or anything but one thing I do know; these doctors and nurses at our public institution committed a more deadly crime than anybody that could have stolen everything from me!
It is such acts of murderous proportions that would make me join the CSOs for a street demonstration any day of the week.

Such is the stuff I would imagine our Kenya National Human Rights Commission and Kenya Human Rights Commission zeroing on to see justice done to the most voiceless of the voiceless, not some thugs being shot dead by flying squad on Mombasa Road.