Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mob justice

Last Wednesday,I was delivering a training program in Malaba, near Uganda, to parents of children with disabilities.I was encouraging parents to interact with their children with speech and language problems in order to further stimulate the children's language skills

I was on my way to the bathroom in the compound, when I turned the corner and confronted an angry group of young men, whipping a younger boy on the back with car tyres. An older man was laughing in the corner at the spectacle. I found out later that the boy had apparently stolen some roofing from a nearby shop. The owner of the hotel where I was was staying, paid local youths to kill him and they decided to carry out the torture in the grounds of the hotel where I was staying

The boy appeared intellectually disabled. Gripped by panic and fear, he was wailing loudly and unable to articulate at the thought of his imminent death.
The crowd was getting more and more animated. When I returned from the bathroom, the situation was getting out of control. One man was charging at the boy with a shovel.

This is when I decided to intervene.

I could not let them beat a man with a disability to death in front of me when I was giving a lecture next door on valuing people with disabilities.

I ran towards the man with the shovel, pleading and shouting at him to stop.
A woman crept up toward me, giggling quietly, and whispered in my ear. She explained to me that the boy was a thief and this was how Kenyans dealt with petty theft- by handing down a death sentence and dealing with it themselves

The police were not called.There was no need. They would deal with this themselves.

The owner protested that the policeman would ask him why he had not killed him.

The mob were getting more fired up and took off towards the back of the hotel.The boy was bleeding on his head as one man had hurled the shovel at him and hit him on the head. He was also bleeding inside his shirt from the public whipping

I continued to follow them, with my bosses looking on in silence and complacence. This is the system here, they said, despite it being illegal.

Mob justice

I continued to plead with the owner to take him to the police so they could investigate the matter. Eventually the owner agreed to take him to the police

I screamed at the owner saying that he himself should be charged with attempted murder..the boy after all was disabled and had stolen a small amount of roofing material, hardly deserving of death by blow to the head with a blunt instrument

He replied that the man was not disabled. He was caught stealing and must be punished. He was simply teaching him a lesson and ordered the mob to stop

'I am saving his life', he protested

I insisted that he in fact was trying to kill him. I was the one trying to save his life

All this time, my boss was laughing, proclaiming that this is Kenya and Marie, you are like an Afican woman, fearless

The crowd simply did not see the benefit of taking him to the police..he would not learn his lesson, he would steal again. Besides the police would beat him also

So there... a day in the life of Marie Fahy in Kenya

And all I wanted to do was go to the toilet!

Kenya is a harsh place and sometimes very barbaric

but then why are there so many Christians heading off to mass every Sunday if, when the whim takes them, they beat a man to death with a shovel for stealing so little

Where is the compassion? It's not very Christian

Innocent people are being lynched not only in Malaba but also in Nairobi. Mob justice is absolutely unethical in African society so why does it continue?

Change can only come when the administrators adhere to and respect the law..Kenya has a long way to go in this repect

The judiciary system, just as other government departments, are riddled with corruption and it is not surprising that people have taken the law in their own hands

Having witnessed firsthand "mob justice" in Kenya, I absolutely condemn this barbaric act which is due to the incapability of the Kenya Police and high level of corruption which sees many criminals walk free after small handouts forcing the public to take the law in their own hands.

I don't believe that Kenyans are bloodthirsty and enjoy killing their compatriots but the justice system here just doesn't seem to work, leaving people with no other option but to take the law into their own hands.

Many law enforcers have failed to deliver and people have to live with the fear that they are not well protected. In other cases law enforcers have forged alliances with criminals and this has reduced the confidence that people have in them. It's time kenyans reviewed the way their law enforcers work, and maybe give them enough resources.

Otherwise many more people will get killed on mere suspicion of having committed a crime.


  1. Marie,

    I am at once in awe of your courage and compassion for the suffering of another human being and yet also stunned by your lack of concern for your own safety. It is my earnest hope that you will return home safe to Ireland, and yet that seems doubtful.

    I know you well enough to know you will not heed any warning to contain your vocal opposition to the human rights abuses you see, probably everyday. You have become a new person in Africa, perhaps a better person. The jovial attitude of your boss and the pack of human hyenas who were amused by and participated in the young man's suffering tells me that the culture of the society you are living in is plagued by depravity. I admire deeply your willingness to take a stand for decency, but was it necessary to do so at the risk of your own life? Could you not get to a phone and call the authorities? Could you not whip out your own phone, take a photo and report the perpetrators?

    You are a passionate person who wants to contribute to humanity. Just remember to do that you yourself need to stay alive. God knows Africa has enough unremembered martyrs.

    Mind yourself Marie. No one else is going to. In a place like Kenya that will require divine intervention which is what I am praying for.

    I am, as always, proud to have you as a friend.


  2. Marie,

    I have read many posts on hundreds of volunteering blogs, but this was truly something else. What a story - and what bravery! I love seeing that there are still people out there who dare intervene in dangerous situations in order to aid a stranger.

    The following is a message that I am trying to send to as many volunteers as possible, I hope you have time to read it:

    My name is Martin and I am writing to you on behalf of a website that I am currently involved in starting up. We aim to provide prospect volunteers with all the information they need in order to feel confident in their choice of organisation, position and destination, as well as inspire people to make the jump and try out volunteering.

    As a part of that, I was wondering whether you might be interested in answering a few questions and perhaps sharing any advice you may have for people who are considering to volunteer.

    If you think you might have time to do this, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me through, and you can view the website I’m representing at

    Thanks, and keep up your amazing work!

    Martin Jonsson