Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jungle justice rules in Cameroon

Randy Joe Sa'ah:

The young man pleaded for mercy as the angry mob kicked and clubbed him with sticks and pieces of metal.

He was clearly in agony and drenched in his own blood as he lay in the street in Down Beach, Limbe in south-western Cameroon.

Nobody seemed bothered about his confession and pleas for mercy.

This is what they call "jungle justice". The man had allegedly robbed an American couple coming out of a bank.

Fortunately for him, some navy officers intervened and seized him from the mob, some of whom seemed sorry that they had not broken the man's bones.

"If any suspect is caught with evidence, he should be killed," one of the mob told me.

"That is the new law we have in Limbe now.

"Because if he managed to get you, he will kill you. So it's better we kill them before they kill us."

The attackers did not trust the police to bring the suspect to justice.

"Immediately he gives them money, he will be freed," I was told.

"That is why we make sure we break one of their legs or any part of the body. It is well known that the police take a bribe and let suspects go."

The same man said it was common for suspected bandits to be beaten to death in Limbe.

"It can happen today, tomorrow and the day after. These thieves are very busy monitoring people to rob. So we, too, are not sleeping."

As he spoke, more people rushed to the scene, one carrying petrol - apparently to burn the suspect alive.

Another man described the lynchings as "our own way of passing a vote of no-confidence in law enforcement officers and judicial authorities".

Local TV and radio are awash with reports about "jungle law" from around the country.

Analysts say the rising wave of lynching reflects the frustrations of the public that has lost faith in the police and judiciary in checking crime.

In January, Chief Vuga Simon was lynched by his own people for selling off village farmlands to rich cattle owners in North West province.

In Kumba in South West Province, a police inspector is serving a five-year prison term for using kerosene to set on fire a young man found with a bicycle.

It later emerged the victim had not stolen it.

And in the economic capital, Douala, three suspected bandits were roasted alive and a murder suspect was beaten to death minutes after he allegedly stabbed his landlord.

Alarmed by the high incidence of lynching, Centre province governor Fai Yengo Francis went on the radio to try to persuade the population not to take the law into their own hands.

Even the police are now crusading against the phenomenon on state radio.

Cameroonians are anxiously awaiting the implementation of the new criminal law, which will hopefully, speed up police investigations and court trials.

But for now, mob justice is showing no signs of returning to the jungle.

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