Friday, December 08, 2006

Rough Justice. Carolyn Dewey is one of Mary's best friends here at RVA. We have gotten to know her this week, and she is a blessing. She and Mary share a "worker", Jane, who also works for others to fill out a busy work week, and Carolyn drove us to Jane's home on Thursday for the lunch that Jane had prepared for all of us. There is much to tell about Jane, her family, and home, about the luncheon, but I want to relate a story that Carolyn told us as we drove back from Jane's home to RVA.

She said that the police in Kijabe had killed a man about 8 months ago. Some young men in the area burned down the police station in retaliation. (I didn't get whether anyone was injured in the attack.) In response, the police rounded up all the young men in the area and put them in jail, all the young men the police could find, and there were many. They made no serious attempt, apparently, to identify the perpetrators, they simply rounded up the young men. Many had alibis, including one of the men who holds a security job at RVA and was on duty when the attack on the police station occurred. Some of the young men in the area avoided arrest by fleeing to the forest and hiding out for awhile. The ones caught in the round-up, however, were kept in jail for upwards of six to eight months.

Jail here is a terrible place. The jailkeepers don't provide food or medical services; it is up to the family and friends of the prisoners to sustain them. These are poor people who must sustain the prisoners, many very poor people, and now many are without the support of the young men inside.

Carolyn said that the families finally were able to hire a lawyer, who did not much of anything. They changed lawyers and he began to make some progress, but I don't know how it all finally turned out, or whether it has yet turned out.

I thought about the lack of a newspaper to publicize this outrage, the lack of civil rights lawyers, the lack of plaintiff's lawyers who can sue the police, the lack of civil and criminal laws that protect the civilians from the police, the lack of resources on the police side, resources to train and propertly manage police and investigative resources that can be applied to determine the likely perpetrators, the lack of grand juries who determine probable cause, the lack of money to hire lawyers, the lack of lawyers. This is part of what it means to be in the third world. It is simply not about starvation. In fact, the lack of systems that would appropriately respond to the crisis of a policeman shooting a civilian is probably closely related to the existence of starvation in the community.

There very obviously needs to be policemen here (as everywhere). Yesterday, Carolyn took us down to "old Kijabe" to deliver some clothes and food to some very poor people there. We were met by the pastor of the local AIC church, Pastor Peter. He is a recent graduate of the Bible college at Kijabe station, and seemed an extraordinarily fine young man. At one point he referred to the new policeman in that area, a man whom, the Pastor said, the community already greatly fears. Pastor Peter said, however, that he thought the man a good man, and said that he is glad to have the him in the neighborhood. As Pastor Peter said that, I remembered Carolyn's main concern as we got into her car to drive down to "old Kijabe" and that was the "thugs", as they refer to such people, who might meet us on the roadway. Everyone with whom we have ridden in a car at RVA prays before he or she turns the engine on, prays for protection, not only from automobile accidents and break-downs, but also from thugs.

Among the people we met in old Kijabe was an old man, who said he had been born in 1911 or maybe 1916 (I don't think he could quite remember). He was thin and a little stooped. His hair was white, which is unusual to see among the people there. He lives by himself and is not well. He has no family in the area. Carolyn brought him food. After an earlier visit by Carolyn with a delivery of food, young men broke into his little mud hut and stole the food and beat him mercilessly, an attack from which he has not yet recovered, months later. I understood why Pastor Peter was glad to have a fearsome policeman in his neighborhood, and maybe I understood a little better the story that Carolyn told about the round-up and jailing of all the young men in Jane's neighborhood.

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