Sat. May 25th, 2024

The Dangers Of Mob Justice

Mob justice (MJ) is the practice whereby a mob, usually several dozens or several hundred persons take the law into their hands in order to injure and kill a person accused of wrongdoing. The issue of the victim’s quality is usually secondary, since the mob serves as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. MJ has been practiced in many societies in the world. In America for instance, in the 1800’s blacks were lynched as a punishment after committing acts considered as crime by the white population. In a report by the United Nations peace mission in Guatemala, 185 people were killed by mobs between 1996 and 2000, and 450 people suffered serious injuries in lynching attempts. Although MJ has existed in Tanzania for the past few decades, the magnitude and the factors associated with have not been studied. The present study has tried to address these issues.

Justice has been one of the greatest concerns of humanity since the beginning of time. Consequently, philosophers, political scientists, sociologists, legal theorists, economists and many others have elaborated a number of theories of justice. In effect, both Plato and Aristotle regarded justice as “the essential virtue which enables humans to live together in harmony”, (Hoggart, 1992:174).

Mob justice is to take the law into one’s hand. The common reaction of a person who suffers injustice in the hands of a person is to seek revenge. The likely impact of revenge is the tendency for it to yield more injustice and more revenge.

When a person perpetrates injustice and is arrested and detained the whole nation would sympathise with the victim. All just humanity everywhere will call for justice to take its course.

This is how to mourn the dead and stand by them for justice to be done and be seen to be done.

On the other hand, when the road of revenge is pursued the victims become many and people would concentrate on what has happened to their own side rather than empathise with the original victim.

Strength is only strength if it is sustainable.  Every Gambian should refuse to be pushed into the defensive by engaging in action that would make the person an outlaw.

Mob justice tends to lead to collective punishment of people who are not guilty of any crime. A just human being should hate to perpetrate injustice against any human being on the face of the earth. Injustice anywhere should be fought by the just everywhere. That is the only way we can have a just and peaceful world.  

In recent time, Ghana’s return to constitutional rule has seen an upsurge of lawlessness on many fronts. In the view of some critics, this phenomenon is the inevitable evidence of the relics of the turbulent political past that has left indelible prints in the socio-political and economic history of the country over the years. One main characteristic of this disturbing phenomenon is the rising threat of recourse to mob violence as a way to settling civil misunderstanding or dealing with suspected miscreants such as armed robbers, pick-pockets, rapists, etc. This way of seeking justice, usually named “mob justice”, seems to put a serious indictment on the rule of law and the administration of justice in the country. As result, the quest for good governance and the pursuance of democratic values become questionable. What then is mob justice, on one hand and the rule of law, on the other?

Mob justice refers to a situation in which a large disorganized crowd of people resort to violence and destruction in an attempt to ensure fairness and equity for themselves without recourse to the institutionalized public bodies entrusted with this responsibility.

The rule of law, on the other hand, refers to a situation in which the people in a society obey its laws and enable them to function properly. It emphasizes the supremacy of the justice system, the laws and the law courts, the judges and lawyers together with the law enforcement agencies of the State working effectively and efficiently to ensure peace, stability and socioeconomic development through fairness and respect for the rule of law. Effectiveness of the rule of law is solely dependent on the trust and confidence of the people in the legitimacy of these institutions. As a result, every citizen, irrespective of his or her status, origin or political affiliation, is subjected to the laws of the land. Under this dispensation, the law and its interpretation must be legitimately accepted as the true manifestation of the sovereign will and aspiration of the people in their quest for democratic equity and fairness at all time.

At this point, the essential questions of this paper can be posed as follows: What is justice? Why is “mob justice” an injustice? What are underlining causes of this phenomenon? How does is impact on the rule of law under Ghana’s evolving democratic dispensation? What can be done to put a stop to it in order to foster the rule of law and ensure sustainable democratic development in Ghana?

In a systematic attempt to provide answers to the above questions, the paper set off from the hypothesis that mob violence, popularly called “Mob Justice” is a gross act of Injustice. Indeed, it is a criminal act punishable under the Laws of the land as set out in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Thus, it is a deviation from legitimate social norms and a violation of all the national and international conventions that guarantee the rights to life and fair justice to every human being.

In the first place, an attempt is made to define the concept of justice from legal, sociological and conventional point of views. Secondly, it identifies and examines some possible causes and consequences of “mob justice” in the Ghanaian society. Thirdly, the study discards the notion of “mob justice” as a form of justice. Finally, it draws lessons from the examination and evaluation of both the causes and consequences of “mob [in]justice” which would useful in the formulation of possible interventions toward its eradication so as to enhance the rule of law and good governance. In doing this, the paper will examine data drawn from secondary sources.


Five major possible reasons have been identified as being the root causes of mob [in]justice. These are as follows: (i) reception failure; (ii) public dissatisfaction and lost of trust in the existing legal framework and constitutional institutions charged with such responsibilities; (iii) market failure; (iv) mob power and mass powerlessness and (v) redressing imbalances and addressing inequities. These reasons will be examined with their various impacts in the subsequent paragraphs.

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of

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