Rough Justice

Faced with an endemic wave of crime, Nairobi is awash in vigilantes. David Gough reports in the liberal Guardian of London: "Community leaders say that chronic unemployment, a corrupt and ineffective police force, food price increases, and drug abuse are forcing communities to take the law into their own hands."

Perhaps predictably, a proliferation of private police forces has led to lynchings. After vigilantes hired by a businessman to protect a housing project caught two alleged burglars and tied them to a tree, a mob gathered and stoned the suspects to death. Nevertheless, Gough writes, "since the vigilantes began patrolling the estate [housing project] at night, there has been a dramatic reduction in burglaries, residents say."

One community leader, John Mbugua, who has established another vigilante patrol in Nairobi's Sodom District, spoke for those seeking more order and prompt punishment. Recalling that an alleged rapist was hauled in by police, only to be freed a few days later, Mbugua told Gough, "I don't think I'll be taking the next rapist I catch to the police. No, I think I'll be taking him to the mortuary."