The Locust Effect
I could carry on from Part 1 of this post, by sharing more stories of child sacrifice, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), murder, corruption inc. police brutality, abduction, sex exploitation, slavery; all of which are forms of violence that are particularly detrimental for those who lack wealth, education and stature within their community - but I won’t. Instead we need to get informed and understand the root causes of violence, so that we can be proactive and effective in supporting the most vulnerable people around the world.
I am not going to attempt to cover everything Haugen presents in the Locust Effect but simply highlight a couple of areas that I find particularly prominent in our experience in Uganda. The first area, and perhaps least surprising (but still shocking), is the lack of state security in developing countries that allows for such violence to fester in poorer communities. Private security is big business in Uganda, for both businesses and home owners, simply because state security alone is not sufficient to protect its citizens. (This is also true for much of the ‘developed’ world but not anywhere near to the same extent.) Haugen gives examples of police incompetence through a lack of knowledge and training in criminal investigation and general public protection as the biggest reason for the failure to protect the country’s citizens. In addition to incompetence is the detrimental matter of corruption.
Widespread corruption in the developing world means justice is on the side of whoever can pay the police bribe. As if that isn’t compounding enough, on top of incompetence and corruption (and perhaps the reason why corruption is so prominent), is underfunding. Not only is there not sufficient funding for education and training, nor funding for sufficient resources but there is also not enough funding to pay police officers a living wage. To invest more in policing and, more generally, the criminal justice system requires pulling funds from other underfunded areas of the public sector. I'm glad I don't have that job!
The lack of police and distrust of the legal system leads to individuals enforcing the law themselves. I have seen firsthand many situations where this has been the case. I stayed in a rural Ugandan village where an individual with a severe mental illness was shackled, by the community for many years, by his ankles and wrists because of the crimes he had committed. I have witnessed a mob beating the driver of a car after he (accidentally?) hit a pedestrian crossing the road. Recently a mob beat a neighbour of the house where I was staying to death because he was carrying a TV and he was (wrongly) assumed to be a thief. I have stood in the middle of a mob as they tried to beat an individual with clubs, bats and sticks with nails in them, who was caught in the act of stealing from the hostel where I was staying. (I was caught in a dilemma, do I as a foreigner get involved and protect this thief from a brutal culturally accepted practice, or do I stay and watch as the form of justice that I have been taught is wrong is implemented. After the chef of the hostel jumped in, so too did I.) The police in this instance were supposedly called but never arrived, instead the mob eventually put the thief in the taxi and ‘drove him to the police station’.
Haugen, the author of The Locust Effect, goes on to question why the criminal justice systems in the developing world fail so miserably to protect the poor from violence. It is this insight that blows me away the most; ‘those systems were never intended to protect the common people from violence – they were intended to protect the colonial rulers from the common people’. The criminal justice systems were created by the colonial powers of years gone by but once these countries gained independence, the colonial systems of policing and law enforcement were never transformed to serve a new purpose, ideally suiting the incoming authoritarian regimes and political elites.
One of the biggest obstacles of the poor when dealing with the post colonial criminal justice system is that of language. In Uganda (the once British colony), the judiciary proceedings are all spoken in English, the language of the social elites but not that of the common people. Interestingly, there is even suggestion that some members of the judiciary in Uganda, are judged not to be sufficiently proficient in English to work effectively. Questions and answers have to be translated and the litigants have no choice but to trust their lawyers, even if the lawyers themselves don’t sufficiently know the language.
Now you might say, this particular issue only impacts those that are involved directly with the breaking of the law and courts and not simply much of an issue for majority of the citizens. This is not the issue I want to focus on, although many socially and economically deprived individuals will be wrongly accused because of their limited stature, but you can imagine how a political and judicial system inherited from the previous colonial power can have adverse consequences for particularly the most marginalised citizens. Benard Acema, is one Ugandan who has written at length about his theory of Kampala and the capital's 'racist design'. This design left over from the British colonial rule still restricts the development of individuals and Uganda as a whole. The British architecture still remains, as does the inherited sports of cricket and golf, streets are still named after British royalty and children are subject to outdated colonial forms of education. Much of the suppression of Ugandan's, Acema states, is subliminal but that doesn't detract from the very real impact it is having on citezen's and their development.
The is a link between Acema suggesting that Ugandans are still being suppressed by the colonial past, and Haugen suggesting that the political and social elites have adopted the positions of the colonial legacy and continue to work within that structure, with many already socially deprived Ugandans being negatively impacted.
So what can be done to prevent violence against the global poor?
The Locust Effect clearly states that there is not any easy answers to this question. Nor is there anything proven to be universal. As we know, poverty is complex and multidimensional, and so too should be the response to positive global development.
International Justice Mission are doing amazing work partnering with lawyers, NGO's, and governments all around the world to provide vital legal assistance, build competence and even trailing new programs tailored to specific geographical, cultural and political circumstances. There is a whole chapter devoted, not to answers, but rightly to demonstrations of 'projects of hope' that they have been witness to and occasionally played a part in. These examples really do give me hope in what can often be seen as a hopeless situation.
The two issues that I talked of in this post - 1. a lack of state security and police incompetence, 2. the inheritance of many colonial practices that were designed to subdue and overpower the socially and economically deprived - are massive and are not something that the majority of us feel like we have any direct influence over. But that thinking is wrong, we do and can have influence, we must.
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