RE: “Man lynched over alleged banana theft in Kayonza” (The New Times, October 14).
In a country that has banned the death penalty (rightly in my considered view, even if I sometimes feel some regret), including for genocide—the most heinous of crimes, how can we condone the murder of a fellow human being for mere theft of a bunch of bananas from someone’s field?
I know a bunch of bananas or a basket of potatoes or cassava can represent much more for a peasant family than ten times the monetary value for a bourgeois family in Kigali. But no matter its value, it can never equal that of a fellow human being, including the lowliest of thieves.
Those responsible for snuffing out the victim’s life should therefore, receive exemplary punishments after due process. After 1994, Rwandans should never again allow anyone to think they can willy-nilly take someone else’s life just like that and get away with it—which is not to let off our criminal justice system, including the police, prosecution or the courts lightly, at all.
Members of the public often take the law into their own hands because the system has allowed the public to believe, from experience or from hearing from others, that the law cares little for their losses from the kinds of behaviour the victim is suspected to have been involved in when the vigilantes/his killers encountered him.
The best way to discourage this kind of mob “justice”/vigilantism is to improve the effectiveness of our criminal justice system (crime detection, investigations, prosecution, sentencing and even compensation of the injured parties) to convince people that there are remedies to their injury that are much better than taking the law into their own hands which, moreover, is likely to result in they themselves facing sure punishment for breaking the law by arrogating to themselves the prerogatives of police, prosecution, judge and executioner.
It is absolutely right that those who murdered the victim be appropriately punished. But those who have failed to protect citizens’ property or who fail to deliver justice thus contributing to citizens’ conviction that they can expect little help from the justice system for their injuries also need to do some serious soul-searching as the first step to do much better. Otherwise we shall continue to see these kinds of tragedies.