This morning a thief came into the downstairs part of our house, which someone had left unlocked, and the guy who lives downstairs caught him. I heard shouting, and came out on the balcony to find everyone watching the men who live in the house beating him in the yard downstairs. Hannah started shouting at them to stop, as did I, then they started to kick him in the head. Auntie (whose house it is) went downstairs and stopped them, and made them turn him out in the street. However, out in the street the whole neighbourhood joined in.
There were a lot of people watching – little schoolgirls, women from the houses nearby, and there was general enjoyment of the event. The thief was now being beaten in the road in front of our house, and more men had come out to join in. One picked up a large piece of wood and started hitting him around the head with it, so loud you could hear it. Then another guy did the same. At this point, Hannah ran down into the street in her nightclothes to protect the thief.
While she was running downstairs, another man had come out with a machete and had started swinging it at the thief, while the others hit him with the planks of wood. Fortunately he was wearing jeans and a jacket, and the machete blade didn’t go through them right away. Then Hannah arrived, not having seen the machete, and got between the thief and the men attacking him. I, not being a good enough person to try to get between the thief and our neighbours, then pegged it downstairs to stop them using the machete on Hannah.
I’m not sure what broke it up – it’s possible that the addition of another screaming obruni in her nightwear was enough of a distraction for the guys whacking the thief, so that they paused and another man was able to pull him away down the road, presumably to take him to the police station. Once he was fifty yards away, people started to lose interest and the crowd started breaking up. The kids went on to school, and the neighbourhood people had a good laugh and went about their day.
I think the thing that surprised me was seeing the people I have been living with in the compound, whom I know to be nice, normal people, get involved. They were defending their home, but it went way beyond that – it was clear when Hannah went down that it was about to become much worse than just a beating. I don’t think anything would have happened to the people if they had killed him, since it’s quite normal here to do that to a thief.
One of the family here, who lives in the compound, came out to join in while brushing his teeth. He didn’t take his toothbrush out of his mouth the whole time, while smiling and kicking the intruder in the head.