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?
— 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?