Justice a luxury of the first world?

Was listening to NPR this morning as they discussed a novel (Hour of the Red God) by author Richard Crompton. It is set in Nairobi and follows a Maasai detective as he pursues justice. You can listen to the program story here.

What I found striking was this little bit of interchange between the detective and his supervisor:

— What about justice? croaks Mollel.

Otieno gives a sad smile. — Mollel, you’re in the wrong country. The wrong continent. Don’t you know there’s something more valuable than justice here?

— What?

— Peace. … Justice is a luxury. Peace is a necessity. You want justice, move to some first-world state with sophisticated crime labs and DNA tests and judges who can’t be bought off.

I find this intriguing and a common viewpoint in the parts of Africa I have traveled (admittedly small). Since justice isn’t possible, seek peace. Unfortunately, such a pattern provides some comfort in the present but allows for desires of revenge to sprout and grow as a poor substitute for justice.

The bigger question is how do you work for justice when you cannot expect the necessary systems to work for that same goal?


Filed under Africa, conflicts

2 responses to “Justice a luxury of the first world?

  1. D. Stevenson

    Two things –
    1. Justice is not a given even in first world countries. Corrupt judges, corrupt lawyers, and other unjust powers also exist here. They are better able to hide in a *sophisticated* system. I know this. I have a friend who was unjustly charged, trapped and punished for over a year, and even now, with her name vindicated, she is still held in the claws of the system that doesn’t want to admit their error (or their malicious lies)

    2. I listened to an interview of a man who was held in jail for 12 years for a murder he did not commit. The DNA “proved” him guilty 12 years ago. The DNA proved him innocent today. The real murderer had testified for the prosecution and was finally arrested 2 years after this man’s release. The interviewer asked the man about his feelings now that he has finally “achieved justice”. – I thought, how can we say he has had justice? He cannot get those 12 years back. – How can we say that the victim has had justice when the murderer is convicted? The victims life cannot be returned. Does loss of life equal time in prison? Is it justice?

  2. No doubt. Justice is not a given in any sector of this world! You are asking if justice is possible in this world? No. Not completely. And yet we work for it nonetheless. We expect that in the next life, justice will be meted out exactly as God would want it to be. I would argue that the man released from prison has received some justice. Is it enough? Probably not. Justice is not intended to even out damage, to make it as if the injustice never happened. Instead, it acknowledges a wrong and seeks to begin to right that wrong.

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