Crime And Punishment In Banana Republics

By Prof. Sankara Kamara…

One of the greatest benefits of living in a democracy deals with the fact that your human rights would be recognized and respected. Although police brutality and other forms of injustice can occur in the United States, it still remains a fact that life in a democracy is healthier, safer and more qualitative than, say, living in a hellish, banana republic. If you are not a student of international relations, please note that a “Banana Republic” is a poor, chaotic, lawless and undemocratic polity, where the country’s thievish rulers are ABOVE the law. In a democracy–I mean a REAL democracy–the judicial system ensures that crimes are categorized, so that the law can be judicious when punishment is meted out to convicted criminals. In other words, EVERY crime MUST fit the punishment. In most American states, there are usually three types of crimes. The three types of crimes are, misdemeanour {British spelling: misdemeanour}, felony and an infraction. In American jurisprudence, a misdemeanour is considered a low-level crime, and the punishment varies from a fine, community service, probation, or some months in jail, depending on the circumstances and nature of the case. For its part, a felony is a serious crime. When convicted of a felony, the punishment could range from several years, or even life in jail, depending on the nature of the felony. An infraction is considered the least dangerous crime in the United States. The punishment for committing an infraction could range from a court-imposed fine, warning, or probation. In theory, at least, democratic societies try very hard to ensure that the crime fits the punishment. No one should be indefinitely kept in prison, for committing a misdemeanour or petty crime.

If I shoplift an item worth three hundred dollars, in the United States, my punishment would be far lighter, than that of a man who was convicted of armed robbery. Unfortunately, judicial systems in banana republics do NOT seem to recognize the fact that a man’s punishment should fit the crime for which he was accused, and subsequently convicted. A hungry man who steals a loaf of bread in Sierra Leone, can be kept at Pademba Road–a hellish prison–for months, inexorably violating his human rights. Civilized societies do NOT treat their citizens with such wanton shabbiness.

Democratic societies know that a police officer is NOT supposed to hit a handcuffed man. The reason? Democratic societies believe that a handcuffed suspect is INCAPABLE of posing a deadly threat to a police officer. Although he could be uncooperative and unruly, a handcuffed suspect, in a democratic society, is considered largely harmless. A law-abiding police officer should be able to handle a handcuffed suspect without resorting to physical acts of violence. There is police brutality and outrageous forms of injustice all over the United States. The difference between a democratic society and a banana republic is, however, clear. When it becomes public knowledge, police brutality is punishable in the United States, often through the dismissal, arrest and trial, of the officer who allegedly abridged the law. In a banana republic, police brutality is NEVER punished. Brutal and law-violating officers normally go scot-free, prompting other members of the police force to commit nastier crimes against citizens.

The SOLUTION to this anomaly largely lies in having an educated population. An enlightened population will know that the police officer it pays with its tax dollars, is NOT supposed to hit a handcuffed suspect. When a rogue officer hits a handcuffed suspect, an enlightened population can always be EXPECTED to be ANGRY, subsequently putting pressure on lawmakers and the corrupt, judicial system they established. AWARENESS is the most effective weapon a society can use against injustice. If you can read this message on your computer or cellular phone, the virtues of AWARENESS should urge you to let Mr. Vamboi know, in very SIMPLE terms, that each time a police officer hits a handcuffed suspect, everyone in his neighbourhood should assemble to put pressure on that area’s Member of Parliament, DEMANDING proper representation. Each time you raise an alarm against poor governance, you are striking a small but crippling blow, against injustice. If parliamentarians all over Sierra Leone come under a coordinated and sustained pressure from their citizens, our political system will BEGIN to know that police officers and politicians, are supposed to serve and protect the PEOPLE. An acquiescent {a quiet and inactive} population, will always lead to the creation of a banana republic. Needless to say, banana republics are synonymous with poverty and lawlessness, the key variables behind failed statehood.