A thief in Uganda being burned alive?

We were sitting at the keep having breakfast as usual and we heard what sounded like an angry mob out front. I went out to investigate and saw a group of construction workers across the street in one of the alleyways. They were yelling and throwing up their hands and seem to be centered on one man, now shirtless and clearly frightened. As I walked closer to investigate, our cleaner told us that they had caught a thief.

At this point I backed off a bit. We have been told time and time again that the punishment for thieves was severe and usually consisted of putting a tire on him, soaking it with gasoline and lighting it on fire.

Although we have never witnessed this, we have seen thieves stoned to death by an angry mob. We’ve also seen crowds of people chase after motorists who flee from the scene of an accident. In one particular case we watched the driver literally pull up onto the steps of the police station and tumble inside for safety from the mob. If you’ve never experienced the sound and power of an angry mob it’s something that simply can’t be described. The fear that it instills is intense.

So soon as I heard that the crowd was dealing with a thief, I started to get a bit worried, not just for him, but also for my own skin.

After all, here I was standing across the street from an angry mob, taking pictures. It would take much for them to turn on me.

I was about to walk away, and I saw a man approach, lugging with a full Jerry can. These yellow cans are used for all kinds of liquids, but in this case, I did the math and knew it was gasoline. In that moment, I had a dozen choices, but I couldn’t manage to execute a single one of them. I was frozen with fear and uncertainty.

By this point there was a large crowd of pedestrians, boda drivers, and even a tractor loaded with workers to watch what was going on. I watched as the spectators spread the word about what was happening in that little alleyway. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I was appalled to see them laughing hysterically and pointing down the alley. They were laughing.

My stomach turned.

That’s when Jen walked up and told me that the story from our cleaner had evolved. It turned out that the construction workers were complaining about one fellow worker who hadn’t bathed for four days. They decided to take matters into their own hands and bathe him by force.

Huh. That IS funny.

"Stinky guy" being "bathed alive".

“Stinky guy” being “bathed alive”