Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Village Justice

Back in March, I eluded to the justice system in village, and the amusing ways that news get around. Last week, I was once again reminded just how things operate here, and how different it is from the justice system that we are so used to in the modern world.

Last Monday, on my way to Market Day, my moto guy pointed at the Gendarme car that was parked outside someone's house as we drove through. He asked if I heard the news, I said no. Apparently, the night before, a 18-year old chopped off the head of his 6 year-old brother with a machete, because someone told him the heads can get him a lot of money.

Friends, this is not a story you read in some African story book. This happened down the street from me.

I was pretty stunned by the news, but then quickly wrote it off as just another misfortune that often occurs in village. Few days later, I was on another moto, and I inquired what happened to the 18-year old. My moto friend Charlie, replied nonchalantly, "oh, we beat him until he died." Just like that. Almost as if how silly of me to even ask such question. What else would they do? Of course this kid was going to live another day after having done something like that.

This gives our death penalty debate in the U.S. a whole other perspective, huh? Yes, granted the crime committed here in Cameroon, especially in villages, are usually not very elaborate and not intricately planned to the point where advanced forensics are required to find out the offender. Yet, even if we know someone committed murder with 100% certainty, there is no way we would just "beat him until he dies" in the U.S., or most places in the modern world.

Few days later, I invited the new volunteers over for some American goodness (onion rings, ranch potatoes, salad) and one told me she heard the village story on BBC or some mainstream news. I was quite surprised. I mean, I suppose a kid getting his head chopped off is a pretty big deal. Julie told me that the news mentioned something about albino's and that there is some sort of sorcery relating to albino body parts. So later, I verified with another moto guy and he said no the kid was just a regular kid, not albino, but he was doing it for money.

Anyway, moral of the story - village justice is crazy business! Don't kill someone in a small village, because the villagers will beat you to death. And if you can't tell, moto guys are my primary source of village gossip! ahh, I will miss this sense of community, albeit crazy!

1 comment:

ThinkingMansUhuru said...

I have heard of Albinos having body parts taken from them in belief that they are sorcerers or have special powers, but never heard of kids taking the head of a random kid.