The Long Arm of the Law

July 22, 2013 4:55 pm0 comments by:

History holds staggering evidence that, some authorities in most old civilizations have had a tendency of convicting individuals in absentia. For instance, a Russian lawyer by the name of Sergei Magnitsky who died in 2009 has just been convicted of tax evasion amounting to $17million. The story of late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is full of controversies over the circumstances in which he died. The Russian authorities insist he was a criminal and ensured he is perceived as such even by the generations to come. Bizarrely, the USA authorities regarded the same guy as a whistle-blower and in 2012, they named a law (the Magnitsky bill) after him.

Many more deceased rich and famous individuals including Pope Formosus in 897, St Thomas Becket  (the Archbishop of Canterbury) in the 12th Century just to name a few, were convicted in absentia according to the law of the land of the time. There were also trials to vindicate the dead, like that of St Joan of Arc.

Contrary to the said above, we ‘the Africans’ do not speak ill of the deceased as they are left alone to rest in peace. Because of our corruption ingrained nature, we do as much as possible to distance them from their past wrongdoings. It should not come as a surprise to learn that, just like many other African countries, East African countries are a corrupt lot, with the anomaly of Rwanda, which according to reports has the least corrupt people in the region. Now, one can have reservations about these sorts of reports which are allegedly the ploys to stereotype African countries. However, even without these somewhat biased western produced reports; we ‘East Africans’ are undeniably corrupt in every sense of the word.

We elect individuals to public offices so that they govern us fairly and wisely but instead we encourage them in many ways to loot the public coffers. There is a general perception that when individuals are elected or appointed to public offices, should not come out poor, otherwise would be ridiculed for not utilising well their opportunities.

However, when they steal, sign bogus contracts and sell our countries piece by piece, we get outraged! This duplicity in us, much like the double faced ancient Roman deity-Janus, is difficult to understand and might be the reason as to why corruption is endemic.

The founding father of Tanzania, Mwl. Julius Nyerere once observed that, corruption can be found everywhere, and cited examples of Asia and Africa, where a ‘road constructing’ contract is given to that who bribed well. The difference he noted was that, in Asia the road will be built.

Sadly, these corrupt officials spend much of their life enjoying their gains out of looting. They rarely see court rooms let alone jail cells. They go to the afterlife when it’s their turn without ever worrying about getting convicted.

Instead, corruption has now been institutionalised with the creation of anti-corruption bodies which are only powerful when persecuting political opponents of those in power. Else, these anti-corruption bodies are toothless.

Our authorities cannot convict these guys in this life and thus letting them to continue unabated. Then again, the orthodoxy of our times might not necessarily be the same come tomorrow.

Given the way we have mangled our countries, the future generations might just come up with posthumous trials to soothe their anger and punish their forefathers and mothers for leaving the countries in ruins. Perhaps, when that comes to pass, those who somehow avoid justice in this life, can still have their day in a court of law after all.

Perhaps the prospect of posthumous trials might scare them into mending their ways today. For all you know, we could in the future end up borrowing a leaf from the bizarre ingenuity of the Russians.

Now, imagine a dead guy standing trial in East Africa,-or better yet mass trials for dead guys, wouldn’t that be a sight?

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