Sometime in 2010 when I lived in Takoradi, there was this pretty huge house next to my grandparents’ which was a bakery. The lady who owned the bakery had some of her workers stay in the building. They would often wake up at around 4 am in the morning and get to baking and goodness, their sugar and butter breads were amazingly delicious. Getting a loaf of bread fresh out the oven and slathering margarine in and watching it melt upon contact was such a delight. And then pairing it off with a creamy cup of hot chocolate was heaven. On one Saturday afternoon there was an unusual ruckus going on next door so my cousins and I ran to our balcony to find out what was happening. One of the workers had apparently been stealing money from the owner and got caught. Almost all the other men in that building proceeded to beat the culprit with any and everything. He was pleaded with them to let him go and instead call the police but it fell on deaf ears. It was not until he defecated in his pants before they left him because apparently when one is badly beaten and soils himself then he was close to death. He was then left bleeding on the floor. The closest I had gotten to such cases was tales from my classmates in Classes 2/3 when I lived in Accra who would often describe one thief or other getting lynched. I was so shocked witnessing that.
I am pretty certain we are all aware of the atrocity that was meted out to the late Capt. Maxwell. I personally did not watch the video because I did not need to see evidence of what was done. I was initially pleased to notice everyone was crying out against mob justice but the more people talked about it, the obvious it got that the outrage was because the victim was an innocent and dare I say a member of the upper class hence he garnered more sympathy. I live in a predominantly Ghanaian neighbourhood and the conversation initially was, “Aww nti obi ba na y’aku no yayaaya sei. Galamsey a mopɛsɛ mo yɛ nti mo se ɔyɛ ewi” and swiftly went to “Ye sua no nyinaa, sɛ yɛ kye ewi a yɛbo no na yɛdi tyre ahye no anaa sɛ yɛ sa no coaltar”. For a moment there I was impressed and thought we were changing our attitude towards mob justice only to get disappointed in a hot second. You see, they acknowledged that the late Capt. did not deserve his death but because the perpetrators are guilty they deserved to be lynched and burned to death, missing the point that mob justice is simply wrong.
What will it take for Ghanaians to understand that justice is not theirs to be meted out whether or not they believe the culprit to be guilty? What will it take to simply hand the suspected persons over to law enforcement to do their jobs? There are reasons why we have systems in place to maintain law and order in our societies. What good does it do to anyone to take away the life of others for a crime? Why don’t we strive to help these people reform and potentially be better citizens of our societies. Inciting fear and violence has never deterred others from committing crimes and it is not about to now. Our conversation has to shift from he was innocent and therefore did not deserve this to no one deserves this regardless of their crimes. It is an honest shame what happened and unfortunately will continue to happen unless we make the conscious effort to honour and respect the lives of everyone. May he and all the many others who have lost their lives through mob justice rest in peace.