Have you ever been mugged, home-invaded or robbed by a gang of thugs who were intent on liberating you from whatever worldly possessions you had on or about you?
This could happen to you at anytime, anywhere. I have been a victim of such attacks in my life and have acquaintances who have related very similar circumstances, though the outcomes of such ordeals tend to be as diverse as they are numerous.
A motorist on the highway is slowed down because he has noticed something odd and decides to have a closer look, or he takes a minor circumvention to avoid driving over a lump lying on the road, or he parks by the roadside to take a leak…
Next thing he knows, a group of ferocious-looking hoodlums wielding machetes, screwdrivers and pliers – even firearms – are all over him, murder on their minds, threatening him with death unless he delivers whatever he has in his pockets, or whatever he may be carting in his car.
The element of surprise in this kind of situation is usually the prerequisite factor, as the victim is taken completely unawares and could not have prepared himself to give any adequate response to the assault.
Next to the surprise, comes the display of overwhelming capacity for violence, against which the motorist, again, could not have planned.
The thieves know he is probably a rational man, and that such a man knows to appreciate the value of his life well above the value of his car, or his wallet, or his watch. So he will “stand and deliver,” as the highwaymen in Shakespearean days use to command their victims.
Or, in the wee hours of the morning a whole platoon of sans-culottes arrives at your house armed with machineguns, explosives, fire-throwers, welding gear and what looks like excavation equipment, and, having beaten you up, ordered you and your family to lie down as they search your house and take away whatever they find to be of value, they drive away insulting you for not having kept enough loot for them to take.
So, here, we see the elements of surprise and the presence of excessive force representing the potential of irresistible violence forcing the victim to just accept whatever is meted out to him.
There is quite often worse than this, such as when, in a home situation, women and girls are sexually assaulted as their kin watch.
But probably greater than the surprise and the brute violence, is the element of enforced silence, wherein the victims are ordered to keep quiet and utter not a word that will alert any passers-by or neighbours to the crime being committed. It is this enforced silence that makes it possible for unspeakable crimes in nearby places not to be known in the hood.
Once I watched a Kenyan-produced television programme showing a daylight mugging along Koinange Street, in which the victim, with a broad smile on his face, appeared to be talking to his abductors, two on each side of him, as they led him to the end of the street and only released him after they had emptied his pockets and disappeared in different directions.
Silence is an extremely powerful weapon in the hands of whoever wants to engage in criminal activities, because, simply, unreported crimes have little chance of ever being revealed and their perpetrators pursued.
It is only the impossibly religious folk who may believe that one day someone up in the sky will avenge all those who have been robbed, beaten, tortured and/or raped. I do not believe in fairy tales.
So I believe we all have to be wary of all the violent thieves without exception, from the gangs that accost us on the street, to the burglars that violate the sanctity of your domicile, to the political crooks who take power after they have fooled everyone into believing they are there to serve them, but later show themselves to be brigands who rob their people blind, all the time brandishing excessive force effected by police and the secret service, at the same time clamping down on media and public dissent, so no one dare utter a word against this violent pillage.
You think I’m talking about Omar al-Bashir with his sacks of money that he accumulated while meting out violence to his people and muzzling the media? You are right, but there are many more, many more...
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]