Residents of Meru County have devised a form of ‘justice’ they are comfortable with which does not involve the police or courts; use of machetes to cut off limbs.
Crime is a major problem in the khat-rich county of Meru which recorded the second-highest crime rates in the country in 2017 and topped in 2015.
Daniel Mbogori,a private security officer hired to protect businesses in Mutuati, has over the past ten years used his machete to cut of limbs of more than 40 thieves.
“If we take them to the police, they are bailed out for a small amount of money and they continue stealing. But if we give justice to them, they reform and become good men,” he cited as the main reasons as to why people hired him.
Esther Karimi, a Member of the County Assembly in the region reiterated that aggrieved residents are often denied justice due to collusion between authorities and perpetrators explaining instant justice has been necessitated by the judicial system’s ‘lousy nature.’
A trader, Isaac Mwiti, who is a victim of theft, remarked that crime had reduced significantly after this form of punishment became available.
“In the end we all want bad people to pay the price, whether in jail or cutting their limbs. For me the latter works better,” he observes maintaining “many people think twice before attempting larceny.”
Meru deputy county commissioner Buxton Mayabi affirmed authorities were aware of such happenings and were dealing with those involved in revenge, a type of mob justice as it is a criminal offence.
Security analyst Mwendwa Mbijiwe, commenting on the matter, explained the practice as a result of a failure in the implementation of a social contract between the people and the government, where the latter had failed to protect its people.
Morris Nkoja, whose left arm was cut off in 2014 in a botched robbery attempt commented: “Missing an arm is a symbol of my past life; everyone will know that I lost it due to robbery.”
He is unable to take full care of himself and has to depend on relatives but as he put it ‘life has to go on.’