Nature, Patterns and Implications of Mob Justice in the Suburbs Addis Ababa. The Case Study Involved in an Eyewitness Account

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2019
38 Pages, Grade: A-


Table of Contents



Chapter One Introduction 1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1.4 Significance of the Study
1.5 Scope of the Study
1.6 Limitations of the Study
1.7 Operational Definitions of Concepts

Chapter Two Review of Related Literatures
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Nature of Mob Justice
2.3 The Patterns of Mob Justice
A)Direct Role of Public Officials
B)Mob Justice as Political Violence
C)Absolute Backing for Unqualified “Security Committees”
D) Official Ignorance
2.4 Implications of Mob Justice
2.5 Theoretical and Empirical Grounds of Mob Justice
2.5.1 Theoretical Grounds of the Action of Mob Justice
2.5.2 Empirical Grounds of the Action of Mob Justice

Chapter Three Research Methods
3.1 Study Area
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Study Population
3.4 Sample and Sampling Techniques
3.5 Data Collection Instruments
3.6 Data Collection Process

Chapter Four Analysis and Interpretation of the Data
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Socio - demographic Compositions of Participants of the Study
4.3 The Nature of Mob Just
4.4 The Patterns of Mob Justice
4.5 The Implications of Mob Justice
4.6 Possible Solutions of the Actions of Mob Justice

Chapter Five Discussion, Conclusion and Recommendation
5.1 Discussion
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Recommendations


Annex 1 - Interview Sheet (English)

Annex 2- Interview Sheet (Amharic)


First of all, I am so grateful that the long years of accumulating sociological knowledge has reached into the first phase of success with the help of almighty God. I believe that there was a divine intervention that helped me to ardently finish this program. In Addition to that my gratitude goes to my Senior Essay Advisor Ato Dawit Yekoyesew, who gave me the scholastic directions and appropriate support in all the process of the research. I am very happy to be your student, Ato Dawit and thank you for your wholehearted support.

This paper was also been achieved with the help of different peoples that were participating in the study. I really give credit to these research participants for all their concerns and honesty.


The present study was emphasized on how the action of Mob justice is perpetrated in the suburbs of Addis Ababa City. This Action has been the reality in different parts of Ethiopia especially for the last two years as a manifestation of the political, economic and social turmoil in the existing regime. The research has been followed a case study to get in-depth information from few eyewitnesses that were comprised of different places to collect ample evidences based on the eyewitness account. Qualitative method was used to analyze the data taken from informants with an interview. The findings of the study showed that the nature of mob justice in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city is marked by perpetrators from different socio - demographic backgrounds which especially are young, unemployed and male dominated mobs. Moreover, there were also strangers that commit most of the action intentionally against few ethnic groups that projects different resentments related to the current political economic situation in the country. Most of the patterns of mob justice in these localities were supported by government officials at community level due to different reasons like as a means to hide from future accusations that are believed by these officials. At an individual level, most of the perpetrators were reported to be filled with ethic haters and economic benefits that are perceived to be gained after the displacement and evacuations by victims from their households and most of the squatter settlements that were targets of the mob justice. At a community level, the ignorance and negligence of the communities in each localities cost hundreds of innocent lives and destructions of huge amounts of properties from these areas. All such actions were caused different implications that divided households, neighbors and communities into disintegrations and uncertainties. Finally, educating communities, taking measures to criminals, rehabilitating the victims with different strategies, controlling the hate speeches and fake news by Social Medias with appropriate legal frames, organizing the justice system with impartiality and independence, and change the compositions of local administrative with different ethnic groups and etc were the major recommendations suggested based on the findings reached.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Mob justice is an action where a large or an angry crowd tried to give justice by themselves with very bad consequences. This may happen due to different reasons. However, the explanation behind these actions is not justified by rational legal frames. Because it reduces the ability of human beings to control themselves with their interactions to society and law abiding citizens. Nevertheless, it is also a symptom of poor governance and different motives that may come from normlessness that are caused by the failures of different social institutions in the country.

In this regard, emerging states host a lot of mob justice often referred to as ‘jungle justice’ as part of incorrect implementation of law and justice and typically such actions is occurring in developing democracies where the public governmental systems are not well established, performs unprofessional and stand by the political elite (Emmanuel & Thomas, 2014).

In a broader sense, mob justice could be delineated by the actual situation where mob takes their own hands to bring justice on individuals or groups who perceived them as suspected criminals or that leads to a violent consequences as well as it is an action done by irate mobs to illegally bestow justice by denying the suspects right to defense themselves (Adu-Gyamfi, 2014).

This is contrary to most of society’s values, as Durkheim believed that, there is in all healthy consciences a very lively sagacity of respect for human dignity, which conceivably leaves the likelihood open that some societies have unhealthy collective consciences and the concept of minimum norms of a collective conscience of mankind may be considerably easier to justify in relation to crimes against humanity (Glasius, 2011).

On the other hand, the role of individuals to curb and minimize the action of mob justice is small. In this regard, individuals may not be culpable for the acts which they witness,but which they can not choose or not to stop these instances while they are directed to individuals and they are occurring in different places with even the role of the media to amplify this action is high (Sundar, 2011).

Even if mob justice seems strange to Ethiopia, it was common in Asian and African continents and also in South America and some parts (Sahilu & Gholami,2018). However, the nature of mob justice may differ with dimensions and regarding the contexts that brought this action as a means to satisfy justice. In this case, different scholars were revealed that, there are a variety of characteristics that could be taken as the fundamental natures in different dimensions. Based on that, the contextualization of the nature of mob justice must be studied at different levels that have varied across cultures. For instance, the variety of alleged violations aimed at many people have punished by mobs is widely practiced in Nigeria and other African countries, as it includes violent and nonviolent criminal offenses such as murder, armed robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, theft, fraud, shoplifting, and pick-pocketing etc. ( Salihu & Gholami, 2018).

Regarding the activity patterns of mob justice, it is also different manifestations that are observed in most of of situations. The tendency of human beings to involve in mob mentality is also being motivated by different factors that are explained by different perspectives. Most of the theoretical explanations have discussed the issue to comprehend the causal relationships of mob justice perceptions with its core ideas. In relation to this the contribution of Mob sociology is vital, as it was primarily derived from sociological theories about crowd behavior, but ignores their originators' assertions that crowds occur within a larger social context, however, it attempts to explain how a law-abiding crowd turns out to be a law-breaking mob ( Schweingruber, 2000). In this regard, research is needed to better understand recent local contexts. Because mob justice has grown into an apprehension. In this case, as Baloyi (2015), if individuals carry on through ruthlessness visible to the police it designates that their irritation is overwhelming, and such anger is a disclosure of a troubled nation.

Moreover, the consequences of mob justice have also been part of what has gone on this action among communities. As the potential damage and violation of group and individual rights, it could lead to possible distractions and rivalries among different peoples and community members. However, it is also important to notice that having studied potential consequences are being able to help to further protect the action and promote peace and rule of law with having citizens based awareness all along with different strategies and etc.

In sum, mob justice as a research problem could be studied in diverse respects and due to its recent influence in the Ethiopian context, it is a right time to study the problem in different dimensions. That is also the basic concern of the current study in general.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Mob justice has been the major crime that took manly lives in different regions of Ethiopia. It is also the chief aspect of crime against humanity. In our contemporary society, it is assumed that wherever there is a damage of a dominant power, collective groups ascend to block up the emptiness in the gap of authority by captivating things like criminal punishment into their own hands (Byabashaija, 2016).

This action could be occurred because of incidents that are not expected before or as part of the avenge that is repressed for a long time. Moreover, the mob turn out to be the prime mover of the law as this act is a straight and an irrefutable desecration of human rights, compelling illegal actions devoid of following the due process and in so doing tapping the rest of the public in danger (Adu-Gyamfi, 2014). Because of this, the possibility of having this action is a very critical concern of different social scientific studies.

In this regard, Ethiopia has witnessed different patterns of human rights violations, including mob justice in recent years (Amnesty International, 2017/18).The cost of such actions is very sorrowful. It even creates hostilities between different communities and ethnic groups. The consequence of mob justice causes families to lose their main source of income who would have delivered to them and funded in their education, the lives of household members and friends of the sufferers are traumatized & the passing of blood relatives, for the most part in the context of mob justice, remains to traumatise numerous people and relatives (Baloyi, 2015).This is also the fact that tear down many families and larger communities in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city in recent months as different local & international media outlets reported the incidents.

Conversely,there are limitations in the scientific understandings of the Nature,Patterns and Implications of mob justice in our local context.In recent months, most of the scholarly figures and think tank groups have shown concern on the action of mob justice in the country (e.g ethiopan thinktank However, there is a lack of academic based analysis in the area as the action was not common in our contexts. This is the plain gap that is observed in relation to the problem in general.

To generate a a better understandings of the principal aspects of mob justice, the contribution of the current research is important. In all, the process of the research the major components that constitute this action and the implications it brought to the lives of communities could be an asset to further investigate the problem and foster different sociological mechanisms to reverse the effect of the action. Especially, substantiated with evidences that are based upon the actual experiences of eyewitness accounts. Because of the neutrality of such groups in order to observe the problem and the magnitude of tension is believed to be found without distortion in such individuals.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of the study is to explain the nature, patterns and implications of mob justice in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city. Specifically the objectives are:

- To comprehend on the nature of mob justice that has happened in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city
- To examine the patterns of mob justice experienced in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city
- To examine the implications of mob justice resulted from the action of mob justice in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city.
- To suggest possible solutions related to the action of mob justice in the local contexts.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The action of mob justice has been experienced with lots of places that are once perceived as peaceful areas. On the other hand, it is believed to create social fragmentation and loss of strong bonds among different socio cultural groups. Based on such factors, the findings and recommendations of the research would be served as an important investigation to better understand the situation. Moreover, it’s important to gather scientific information as a means to communicate with areas of mob justice because there are recent developments on the issue that could raise awareness and management of the action in relation to its destructive nature. It also is an essential beginning in order to clearly identify the causes of such actions with a great concern. Anyone who is interested to know better about the issue is able to benefit from the current research and its outputs in general.

1.5 Scope of the Study

Because of the vast nature of the study problem, the present research had been delimited in to the following important themes. First, regarding the conceptual scope, it covers nature patters & consequences of mob justice. Second, in relation to geographical scope it only covers the actions of mob justice practiced in the suburbs of Addis Ababa and its surroundings. Third, about time, the scope is delimited to a one year period of mob justice action on the selected areas. By that, the direction of the research is precisely in terms of concern in-depth analysis of the problem with solid findings.

1.6 Limitations of the Study

The present study has been basically focused on the action of mob justice committed in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city which need a lot of financial and intellectual efforts. However, there are different challenges to deal with that in general. Especially, the research has no financial support (budget) other than the efforts made only by the researcher himself. The sensitivity of the problem concerns was also another limitation to fully investigate the problem in detail. Thanks to the participants of the study, even if there were challenges from some of the procedures to follow by the participants. In terms of scholarly resources, there are few research products that are dealt the issue of mob justice in detail. These and other limitations were observed in the process of accompanying the present research.

1.7 Operational Definitions of Concepts

Mob Justice – It is the action of giving justice by the hands of the mob without the space to accept the victims response or justification. In the current study the concept is specified as the actions of such perpetrators that were happening in the suburbs of Addis Ababa City.

Nature - It is representing the core elements of mob justice action that were committed in the suburbs of Addis Ababa City.

Patterns - Are to indicate the specific forms of mob justice that were happening in the suburbs of Addis Ababa city.

Implications - Are the consequences of mob justice that were perceived by participants of the study.

Eye Witness - Are individuals that were observed the action of mob justice in the suburbs of Addis Ababa and these individuals were not directly involved in committing this action.

Chapter Two

Review of Related Literatures

2.1 Introduction

This section is highlighted different theoretical and empirical accounts of the action of mob justice with diverse dimensions. Based on that, the major points that are related to the problem will be discussed in detail. The viewpoints from different scholars are also be part of the section with different perspectives that are postulated the problem with its nature, patterns and implications.

2.2 The Nature of Mob Justice

The nature of Mob justice is easily detected by observers and it has a dynamism of concepts in different regards. For instance, in many legal cases Mob justice is not well-defined in law and it has certainly not be present as a separate phenomenon (Nel, 2016). However the term combines the idea of mob and unstable or emotional crowd, which represents the collective, disorderly and unruly mass of the people (Abrahams, 1998).It is also true that in this action there are connotations that distortievly showed in the name justice like, peace, respect , moral rightfulness and objectivity by which it is seen by the communities of the committers as upstanding and respectable members of the community, and certainly understand themselves as serving the interests of their community (Nel, 2016).

On the other hand, mob justice is committed due to different reason, For instance, it is principally a backward-looking action with a sense of insecurity and it is concentrating on a particular target, one whose choice be governed by on how such insecurity may be defined (Orocka , 2014).The action of mob justice take place when a crowd of people act as both accusers, jury and judge and penalize an suspected wrongdoer on the spot (Chalya, et,al, 2015).In this regard, the most dangerous case of a practice engrained in the community that is together with extremely punitive and further than the control of the justice system is ‘mob justice’, an occurrence that is more and more dominant in African states, through which thieves and others being instantaneously mobbed on the street (Juuko, 2004). Mob justice highlights the boundless encounter of the rationalizing customary process using a rights-based approach because communities may endow judicially, but decide on administering justice in ways that are alien to the conceptions that are essential to the justice system, it turns out to be enormously challenging for the central established order to intervene,even where the apparatuses to do so exist (African Human Security Initatives, 2009).

2.3 The Patterns of Mob Justice

Mob justice propagates a series of violent, generates a culture of fright, and cast-offs individual responsibility for ferocious actions that are committed in the name of justice. As one denounce the act of mob justice, it is imperative to cognize the social climate that allows for it to take place. Mob justice is an outcome of the austere absence of faith in local law enforcement agency and the judicial systems in general (Global conscience Initative, 2011). Because of such an interactional nature of mob justice the patterns of the action are also varied in terms of different aspects.The basic pattern that is known, according to different literatures is held with the participation of public officials directly or indirectly in the action of mob justice. As Human Rights Watch(2010) asserts, the participation and collaboration of public officers in mob justice creäte severe abuses of human rights;via play a part in, overlooking, assisting, or covering up mob justice, officials’ grip accountability in lieu of damage of life,they furthermore refute criminal suspects due process and the right to a fair trial, misuse their authority, and fail to eloquently defend inhabitants meant for providing security. In this regard the major patterns of involving in mob justice action could be summarized under the following pertinent points.

A) Direct Role of Public Officials

The officials who appear to be most frequently involved in mob justice mostly are those who are elected at a local level, wise men who may be elected by traditional ways, in addition, police, soldiers, and communal administrators are also openly involved in some cases, and yet infrequently as mentioned by eye witness and victims (Human Rights Watch, 2010). These officials partake a conventional role in a number of mob killings, and are nearly never impeached (Ibid).

B) Mob Justice as Political Violence

In a number of cases, police force, governmental officials, and political party front-runners have organized mobs to convey violence for political motives and such conduct by state officials may influence the community (Human Rights Watch, 2010).

C)Absolute Backing for Unqualified “Security Committees”

Although there are cases where local officials are not in a straight line involved in mob justice, their reactions to wrong doing frequently generate situations that able to mark such murders more probable (Human Rights Watch, 2010).In quite a lot of communities, local officials have organized unsanctioned “security committees.” These are separate from the authorized security committees acknowledged by law, which be made up of of local police and administrative officials who come across to discuss tactics to averting lawbreaking (Human Rights Watch, 2010).These groups typically comprise of young men who carry out arrests on behalf of the police and are mentioned by victims and eye witnees as invlvolng in the citation of mob justice (Ibid).

D) Official Ignorance

The technical hitches for local establishments and police in avoiding or discontinuing mob justice that is already happening cannot be undervalued. In different cases, police or local officials have made an effort to put a stop to mass beatings, and have themselves been injured. In other cases, nevertheless, the failure of officials to defend sufferers of mob justice is obvious (Human Rights Watch, 2010).

2.4 Implications of Mob Justice

Mob justice is likely to contribute for different implications. For instance, it is likely to deteriorate the legal system by divulging criminal justice system as incompetent and weak of punishing criminals determined according to the law (Adu - Gyamfi, 2014).In relation to that, it is also true that the action of mob justice arranges for a severe extortion to nationwide and international security, peace and stability. On the global front, Mob justice exercise undoubtedly portrays individuals as primitive and coarse. There are also numerous circumstances where innocent sufferers have remained desensitized and killed as erroneous identity incident left behind to probable suspicious link with a crime committed may be securitized and brutalized those who are not involved in the action, Mob justice creates unexpected fragmentation in the examination procedure and the impermeability or inconveniency of arresting other coconspirators of the alleged crime, and finally Mob justice by the side of all periods provides penalty which is extremely ruthless and brutal, compared to the crime committed (Ibid).

2.5 Theoretical and Empirical Grounds of Mob Justice

The action of mob justice could be explained from different theoretic (conceptual) directions and the empirical settings that are dependent upon the real life situations. In this regard, there are also sociological explanations that are directly attached to both the action and the perpetrators of the action in general. In this section, there will be a discussion on the specific theoretical explanations of mob justice and the empirical evidences that magnifies the problem in real life situation.

2.5.1 Theoretical Grounds of the Action of Mob Justice

Quite a lot of origins or motives to why mob justice happened was there known in the literature. The furthermost noticeable one amongst collected works is the failure of the criminal justice system (Habeeb & Hossein , 2018).In this regard, as Ng’walali &James (2006) asserts that, while the justice system that is habitually considered as the last anticipation of a common man instigates to flop individuals and encourage injustice, the indicator is law violation and mass malady. Sometimes mob justice in society generates a sense of contentment for those who believe they have been left without justice over the criminal justice system (Byabashaija, 2016).

On the other hand the core explanation of mob related behaviors is extensively analyzed by mob sociology, for this theory, all crowds can transmute into law-breaking mobs and more importantly, this perspective have explained other issues related how this change takes place and refer to the characteristics of crowds and mobs and the individuals in them (Schweingruber, 2000). According to mob sociology, the differences between the two important concepts that is, the crowd is an unorganized gathering of individuals without leaders. However a mob is characterized by leadership, organization, a common motive for action, emotion, and irrationality, but the key factor differentiating it from a crowd is that a mob is not law-abiding (Schweingruber,2000).In relation to that, mob justice is conveyed as large unsystematic crowd of people that changed in to mobs choose violence and devastation in an exertion to pledge fairness and equity for themselves without the legal state and public bodies hand over with this task to perform it accordingly (Adu-Gyamfi, 2014). In most circumstances, great occurrence of mob vigilant is a confrontation alongside surreptitious police and legal schemes; thus recommends that the insight individuals grow around the political regime is very serious to their individual and group behavior (Emmanuel & Thomas, 2014).


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Nature, Patterns and Implications of Mob Justice in the Suburbs Addis Ababa. The Case Study Involved in an Eyewitness Account
Addis Ababa University  (Department of Sociology)
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Ethiopia has witnessed an unprecedented level of mob justice in recent years. This paper extensively explores the fact from an emic perspective of eye witness in suburbs of Addis Ababa city.
Mob justice, Yakob Tilahun, patterns of Mob Justice, Nature of Mob Justice, Implications of Mob Justice, Suburbs of Addis Ababa, Mob Justice in Ethiopia
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Yakob Tilahun (Author), 2019, Nature, Patterns and Implications of Mob Justice in the Suburbs Addis Ababa. The Case Study Involved in an Eyewitness Account, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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