14 Dec 2009 African Justice

 They poured from the bush back into the stadium like water from open floodgates. The whole crowd stood a little taller, their spines straighter and their walk more purposeful. One man passed me and his jaws were firm, his eyes narrowed and his arms were swinging at his sides. Another was tapping his left palm with his right fist. a third was nodding; his eyes were bright as he listened to his friend. Another was toting a log that fit comfortably in his hand and was about the length of a forearm.

 I was not afraid. I was standing with Joshua, Paul and Gideon. I was not afraid. I had done nothing to deserve African justice. I was not afraid. The punishment had already been meted out in the bush.

 Joshua came to me in the morning and said that the semi finals of the Feok Festival football match would be that afternoon. He asked me if I wanted to go into town with him and watch. I accepted his invitation.

 We arrived at the stadium about three o’clock. We walked through the opening in the cement wall onto the field. The cement wall was the only thing that differentiated the stadium from an open field. The crowd had gathered and the refs were about to start the game. Note to self: Always go to events with another Ghanaian; they have an inbuilt clock that tells them exactly how late an event will be.

 Our team was Corea, a village near the school campus. The opponents were a Sandema town team. We were rooting for Corea. The first half followed the normal events of a football game. When it was over the town team led 1-0.

 At the beginning of the second half the ball went out of bounds. A young man went to collect it but he was in no hurry to return it to play. Another young man ran out to take it from him and get it back in the game. It was Corea’s ball. Within a minute the game stopped and a crowd developed on the far side of the field. We were standing at one of the goal posts and from our spot I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

 The crowd streamed out of the far side of the stadium into the bush. The field emptied quickly as young men all over the field followed the current of people. The handful of people that remained in the field was mostly female and they were talking, shouting and waving their arms in the air.

 Me: Joshua, what just happened? Is the game over?

 Joshua: Oh that guy. Who does he think he is? That guy who went out to collect the ball, he spoiled the ball. He just pinched it somehow.

 Me: Why?

 Joshua: Oh because of some problem with his teammates from the Sandema team. They had some kind of falling out.

 Me: So he spoiled the ball because they were winning?

 Joshua: How can you act like that? You are just one person and you spoil the whole game for the rest of us here.

 Me: Yes how selfish of him. What was he thinking? Where did everyone go? Will we finish the game?

 By now even the teams were off the field. They were on the entrance side sitting down and drinking water.

 Joshua: I don’t know they have to find another ball.

 Paul: Africa. A big game like this and we only have one ball. We should have five don’t you think?

 Joshua: We may continue today or postpone until tomorrow.

 Me: So where did all those people go?

 Joshua: They are chasing him and when they catch him they will beat him.

 Me: They will beat him?

 Joshua: Yes they will beat him. How did he think he could get away with something like that with all these people here? And it’s not over. If they see him in town tomorrow, they will beat him again.

 Me: He must have known they were going to beat him. Did he think he would get away with it?

 Gideon: No he’s just a stubborn stubborn boy. He would ruin the game and take the beating. That’s how much he wanted to spoil it for his mates. He is just a criminal.

 As the satisfied posse streamed back I know I should have felt worse for the offender. My head knows that vigilante justice is not right. My head knows that the system should have dealt with him not the posse but I felt little sympathy for him. He knows this culture and what the consequences of his actions would be.

-vc

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