By Samuel G. Dweh, freelance journalist (0886618906/0776583266; [email protected])
Mob justice, a recurrent concern of law enforcement authorities whose end appears nowhere insight is a problem confronting communities as well as law enforcement officials. There have been many instances in which completely innocent individuals have been victimized on suspicion of involvement in armed robbery, while in other instances, communities have been terrorized by individuals carrying firearms and other dangerous weapons.
It is mainly a postwar menace whose roots, some experts say, can be linked to the civil war but which can also be linked to the country’s justice system that effectively denies many access to justice. Such a situation tends to undermine public confidence and trust in the police as well as the courts with loads of complaints from the public about corruption in the courts as well as alleged preferential treatment of criminals by the police, according to a top law enforcement official speaking on conditions of anonymity. Freelance journalist Samuel Dweh has been looking at the issue and now reports.
The presence of the corpse of a man lying in the middle of a public road in the Lakpazee Community in Sinkor, Monrovia, evoked empathy and apathy in people who had trooped to view the body. One of his eyes had been punched with a sharp object; his head with several holes. And a colony of flies sat on the blood on his bare skin and hovered over the body.
“Ay, God, they killed this young man bad way,” a lady looking at the corpse said and placed her hands on her chest.
“I like the way they killed him,” another lady said while she was leaving the spot. “They don’t want to work, they just breaking into other people’s homes with knives or guns, stealing, or killing when you can’t give them what they want.”
Some of those viewing the corpse, identified as Kormah, said he had been murdered around 4am.
“He was a member of a gang that went to rob in a house in Lakpazee West Point. They took cell phones, money and other valuable items from the occupants in the house. When they were leaving, the people they robbed shouted ‘rogue…rogue…rogue.’ He hid in the bathroom when his friends were running away,” a lady, who identified herself as Marie Sumo, narrated at the scene. “They have been doing this in Lakpazee and the two Matadi communities for over eight years.”
Another lady, Rose Smith, a trader in the Lakpazee market, told me the man, before his demise, had attempted breaking into her home. “Around four o’clock this morning, I saw him shaking my window screen while I and my children were sleeping. When I said, ‘what you want’, he cursed me and ran off. After he left, I heard some persons saying, ‘where is the rogue…where is the rogue…?’” she said.
Ms. Mama Miller, who said she knows the dead man’s family, told me Kormah had told his mother he was traveling to Lofa County, his native home, but people had been telling the mother they had been seeing her son in Monrovia during the time he claimed he was still in Lofa County. “His auntie saw his body and told his mother. When she saw her son’s body, she almost fainted,” Ms. Miller narrated to friends after the body had been taken away for burial.
Before his death, Kormah had fathered three children. “His mother was taking care of two of the children while he was away,” Ms. Miller told me.
Kormah was the only child of his mother, another person said.
Another lady, who lives near Kormah’s mother in Lakpazee, said he started “big-time stealing when he was a child in the community,” she told some persons in the group of people viewing the corpse or taking snapshots with their mobile phones.
Little Kormah started stealing during the presidency of Charles Taylor, when those caught red-handed in the act or considered prime suspects were either lynched or burnt with car tires by mobs in the Lakpazee community. “This was around 1999 up to 2003,” another community member, Gracious Glaybah, 21, confirmed at the scene.
The body of Kormah was removed at 1:10pm by a team of Liberia National Police officers.
While the police was collecting the body, Kormah’s mother pleaded to them to allow her follow them to the burial site. “I want to see where he will be,” she pleaded.
One of the officers told the pleading mother she could take the corpse for burial, but she should first make a police statement. The grieving mother couldn’t, and the police sped off with the corpse.
The brutal killing of Kormah is described as “jungle justice” in Liberia — an allusion to illegal execution of a criminal or suspected criminal by angry persons or a group. Concerned security officials had, on many occasions in the past, warned Liberians against taking the law into their hands.
The government’s anti-mob justice warnings have fallen on deaf ears, especially in areas with no police presence especially during nighttime when the police are not present to deter such acts of lawlessness.
There are reports of armed robbers showing up in neighborhoods where they had operated, a day after they had been caught in the act and thrown into a police cell.
“This undermines people’s trust in the justice system and causes mob justice,” a male community member of the Lakpazee community, who preferred anonymity, told me.