By Musa Bah, Tha Scribber
In the early hours of this morning, I was woken by shouts of ‘Sachee, Sachee, Sachee (thief, thief, thief) and then I heard a lot of noise and what sounded like beatings; blows and slaps landing on a body. Everyone was talking at the same time, or so it seemed.
I went out to ascertain what exactly was going on and saw a crowd of people (young, old, men and women) surrounding someone. Some were raining blows on him and others were releasing invectives which could sting more than any blows.
I went closer and realized that there was a chance of this frail young man losing his life to these angry onetime victims of theft. I enquired as to what led to his being caught. I was told that around four thirty in the morning, some people in my neighbouring house were preparing to go to the mosque when they saw this young man stealthily scale the fence and walked slowly towards the window of a room.
The neighbours started walking slowly towards him and he heard the noise. He decided to scale the fence again, this time, to go out. He was caught and asked what he was doing there at that time of the night. He started explaining suspiciously that he used to come to that house to drink water.
Obviously, this explanation did not satisfy the crowd. It dawned on me then that if I didn’t do something, this young man might die at hands of his captors. So, I asked the eldest of those who were beating him whether there wasn’t any police station around for him to be handed over to the police.
The response I got shocked me. “The police won’t do anything,” they all said at once. “On countless occasions, we handed over captured thieves to the police here only to see them walking around the next day.”
“If that is the case,” I said, “you must let him go.”
“Don’t you know that it is possible that this guy may have been the one who stole your things a few months ago?” They asked.
“Well, it is possible, but we can’t be sure. Besides, even if we were sure, we still don’t have the right to kill him.’
I should say here that my laptop, two mobile phones and fifteen thousand dalasis were stolen from me not very long ago. It is rampant in this area. I urged them to let the young man go as they don’t trust the police to do the right thing, but equally shouldn’t kill him.
Reluctantly, they allowed the young man to walk away. There is a chance that he and/or his gang members may come again or go elsewhere to steal people’s properties but mob justice is certainty not a solution.
The main point of this writeup is to sound the alarm bells on the eroding confidence and trust in the police as an institution. The police is a very important institution in the area of law enforcement and the maintenance of order in society. But if the society loses trust in them then something needs to be done.
There is no doubt that a larger section of society still has trust and confidence in the police but hearing citizens explain how on many occasions they reported people to the police only to see them walk free is worrisome.
There should be a conscious and concerted effort to restore trust and confidence in the police institution. I am sure if the police work harder in this area in collaboration with the communities the lost confidence and trust can be restored and that can only bring progress to the country.
It is high time we came together as a nation and reform our institutions so as to serve our people better. Citizens are urged to respect, honour and support the police in their quest to maintain law and order. Equally, the Government of the Gambia is urged to give the police the necessary tools and support for them to effectively execute the functions assigned to them by the Constitution.