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Crime

Are there murders in Africa like we experience them here in the US?

Before the ills of capitalism and the rat race, crime was incredibly unusual, and this is because of the intimate nature of most African societies. These societies were usually so small that every member of society knew the other. As a result, before any tension, misunderstanding, or illness (mental), escalated to a point that it led to any kind of crime, it was resolved beforehand. Another deterrent to crime was the fact that the deeds of an individual had repercussions way beyond the sphere of the individual alone onto that of his or her entire family. Because of the need to protect a family's integrity, therefore, it was really difficult to hear of serious crimes such as murders, rape, pedophilia, and the like.

A person is never an individual within the worldview of most African societies; he or she is always a member of a tight family and an equally tight ethnic group, although the latter is changing today with more inter-ethnic marriages taking place. The result is that people always thought of the consequences of their deeds on their families before doing anything stupid, because society was very drastic in the way it treated certain actions considered taboo and/or criminal, for example, child molestation, suicide, and murder. In most cases, the punishment was exile from the community. Someone (an adult) who committed a serious crime like sexually abusing a child, for example, a rare crime in most African cultures, was not only exiled from the community, but had his family at once stigmatized, because nobody would let members of his or her family have anything to do with the family of the offender. One could therefore go for decades, or even live one's life to the end without hearing of murder, incest, and crimes of that nature. With colonialism came contacts with other strange cultures and judicial systems that made excuses for such offenders. The result was that some of these crimes became more frequent than my grandfather could ever have imagined. Things are still changing and not for good; murder is now more commonplace than before, and most of the time it has to do with robbery.

Americans hate lies; is it the same in Africa?

Yes, it is the same in Africa, even though things are beginning to change, as is the case with much else on the continent. It is very African to say a man does not lie to his son (Achebe, Arrow 105), but with democracy and politics after traditions of the West, African men of honor have learned to look at one in the face and tell lies. Such behavior no longer has any consequences on the perpetrator, as was the case in Africa before Western style administration took over. The times are changing, and so things unheard of in the past are now becoming almost routine occurrences. These behaviors seem to be normal in the name of politics, or better still multi-party democracy, which is Western. Even in North America, with well established administrative structures, multi-party democracy has its problems as often seen during elections at least. After confirming that there was as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, Paul Krugman writes of the American situation:

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day. (AA6)

This is certainly not only dirty electoral practices, it is unhealthy democracy. He had earlier pointed out in the article how few Americans have heard potentially disturbing facts characterizing the 2000 presidential elections which according to him, as documented by Andrew Gumbel (a U.S correspondent for the British newspaper, The Independent) in his book Steal This Vote, was marred by irregularities. Yet it is this multi-party democracy which Western politicians cannot wait to prescribe to Africans; a practice that encourages lies and scandals unlike Africa's traditional political practices—gerontocracy, for example.

Is it legal to own guns in Africa?

To be able to own a gun in most African countries, one needs a gun permit which is not easily acquired as most governments are trying to keep these weapons out of the reach of people who might use them wrongly. However, in some African countries that have experienced wars, guns are very much part of the society since there is no way of ensuring that all the weapons are taken back by the authorities when the war is over. In any case, with the new trend of violent crimes, many people are acquiring and keeping guns for their protection, even without permits from their governments. This is the case because these Western styled governments have lost credibility in the eyes of the citizens because of the level of corruption which cuts across the entire administrative structure from top to bottom—administrators forging documents and stealing money from government coffers, policemen teaming up and arming bandits who carry out raids and then bring their own share of the booty and so on. So, although one needs a permit to own a gun in African countries, many people are beginning to own them illegally for self-protection.

 
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