Of the Police, the Penal Code and the Dictionary of ‘Tongues’
Posted Sunday, November 3 2013 at 00:00
I can see that our police people may get confused when dealing with witchcraft and weird Christian cults.
Under the no-nonsense command of a military general, the police have done many unconventional things. If, for instance, the Kenyan police thought they had excelled themselves when men who had gang-raped a 16-year-old girl and thrown her into a pit-latrine, condemning her to a wheelchair, were told to slash a patch of grass around the police compound as punishment, the Ugandan police went one better.
In July, they listened to the case of a young woman who was (almost certainly) raped by a gang of Pakistanis, leaving her with ghastly wounds wherever penetration is conceivable, and decided that recording their statements was more than sufficient trouble to a team of foreign “investors”. They set them free, and that was it, until a nuisance called the media and unpatriotic NGOs disturbed the calm.
Rather unconventional, as I said; but now that Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Uganda’s Gen Museveni have so warmed up to each other we can call them “buddies”, they should harmonise and institute these approaches to policing into standard practice. Then a gang-raped woman would know exactly where she stood in this cute new East Africa talking of a political union, if she reported the attack to the police.
Now, if you do not want to be raped, try being killed by thugs. If no policeman witnesses the event, you might as well descend with the entire case to your grave.
If a policeman happens to be an eye witness, there is a chance the police will carry out investigations until another murder distracts the public. And you would not blame the police. They cannot continue investigating an old murder in which the citizens are apparently no longer interested.
But there is a small story of death that got me wondering whether Ugandans have not in fact got the police they deserve. (See Sunday Monitor, October 27, 2013).
The death was of a rather overgrown youngster (because, at age 17, Samuel Gashare was still in Senior One at Mbarara Comprehensive School). His mother, Dinah Kyomuhangi, said she had taken him to a Born Again church for prayers (presumably, an attempt at faith healing) after medical workers had failed to diagnose an illness that had troubled him for a long time.
The boy died at the church, and the police arrested seven people, including the pastor involved, for preferring to pray for the deceased instead of taking him to hospital when his condition deteriorated.
The Rwizi Regional Police Spokesperson, Ms Polly Namaye, said they (the police) had always advised religious leaders that people should be prayed for alongside medication when they are sick. The seven people arrested were charged with “negligence”.
Now… now; negligence? A curious word. Its beauty is that the police lady could have selected it from the Penal Code (on civil wrongs), or from the Born Again Dictionary of Tongues.
The Penal Code, because there are laws that apply in the circumstances. And the Dictionary of Tongues, because you cannot say the pastor and his racket were negligent when they had prayed themselves hoarse, and there is no evidence that other spiritual conmen in the same trade could have prayed harder and achieved a different result.
The mother had bought the faith healing approach as a willing client, with or without cash, as a response to an incompetent public health system that had failed her.
The police lady says this was not the first time people had died in their town in similar circumstances. But Gashare’s mother – like us – has not heard of pastors and witchdoctors convicted for fraudulent healing practices. Instead, they freely advertise their fake healing powers in the media. At Nambole, December 31, they will even get massive police protection.
So, why should the police officers in Gashare’s case not settle for “negligence” as used when jabbering in tongues, where it could mean anything, or nothing? Then it would be time for the pastor and his racket to pay tithes to the police.