Jailing the Criminal: Koffi and the judicial process

The video was despicable. Koffi Olomide’s cowardly and criminal act of kicking one of the dancers at the Kenyatta International Airport was very disappointing.

Kenyans were right to deport him back to Kinshasa. Nairobi already has enough problems with assaults and they do not need more foreign criminals in their city.

The Agricultural and Commercial Society of Zambia (ACSZ) was also quite justified in its decision to cancel Mr. Olomide’s performance at this year’s commercial show events in Lusaka. We already have enough assault and battery crimes for us to invite more from Mr. Olomide.

The ACSZ was right to make that decision as its platform should not be used by a person with such a reputation as Mr. Olomide.

Reports however, have surfaced that Mr. Olomide was swiftly arrested in Kinshasa and a sentence has already been slapped on him. Some suggest that he has been given a custodial sentence ranging from 3 months to 18 months.

I have not verified the veracity of these claims and we are yet to know whether indeed Mr. Olomide has been jailed. Looking at the information from his Facebook page, it appears that he has indeed been arrested.

It does appear like Mr. Olomide’s brush with the law is not new. He was, a few years ago, arrested and convicted in Kinshasa for assaulting his music producer.

In Zambia, a few years back, he is alleged to have assaulted one of the dancers from his singing group. A photographer Mr. Jean Mandela also reported Mr. Olomide to the Zambia police for an assault that occurred after Olomide’s performance.

The Zambian police decided to drop Mr. Mandela’s case and the next year Olomide returned to Zambia with the hope that he would be a changed man.

Mr. Olomide’s swift imprisonment in Kinshasa, however, if true, seems to have been done without due process. The Kinshasa authorities cannot simply rely on a video to imprison an alleged criminal.

To imprison an alleged criminal, it is only fair and just that due process is given by having an impartial tribunal or court try the matter. Without taking away anything from the video, it was authentic and many people at Kenyatta Airport witnessed Mr. Olomide’s behaviour. However, it is the authenticity of the video that should make the Congolese authorities to follow proper procedures before they imprison Mr. Olomide. The fact that a video captured this despicable act places a huge demand and expectation upon the authorities to follow correct procedure before imprisonment. If we made exceptions to important principles of justice and imprisoned people without trial, we run the risk of imprisoning the innocent and betraying the tenets of justice.

The video was compelling as evidence, but there are many instances where people edit and Photoshop videos. An outcry that leads to criminal sanctions must be done correctly so as to avoid unjust imprisonment of the accused in future. Specifically, in the Zambian context, every citizen has the presumption of innocence until they are pronounced guilty by a competent court.

This presumption is afforded to all so that only those who are truly guilty and culpable face the wrath of the law. Without a presumption of innocence, our criminal justice system may descend into a crescendo of injustice and kangaroo court convictions.

The Kinshasa authorities should collect the videos, admit them into evidence, have those who took them testify in an open court, invite witnesses to the stand, and then convict the accused after due process.

This is the best way for our civilization to mete out good justice. It is a betrayal of basic human justice if we proceeded to convict and imprison the accused before they are given their day in court. Even if unrelated, the Congolese authorities now claim to have sentenced Moise Katumbi to jail in court hearing similar to Mr. Olomide’s: none.

Katumbi is probably innocent while Olomide’s act was very obvious for all to see, but the injustice of process is the same.

Kenya was justified in its act of deportation as deportation does not need strict proof of the authenticity of a video. The Lusaka show organisers were also justified in dropping Mr. Olomide as they do not strict proof of the authenticity of the video. But any criminal sanctions can only be meted after a thorough judicial process. A thorough judicial process serves the interest of society and in the long run helps the victims of crime to heal and find closure. A good judicial process is open, fair and transparent. A good judicial process listens to witnesses and victims before it passes its sanctions.

It is my hope that the Kinshasa authorities are not using the genuine outcry of a people fed up with Mr. Olomide’s antics to push their authoritarianism further. I want Olomide to face the wrath of the law, in a way that inspires confidence in the criminal justice system. He should be fairly tried and then if guilty given a sentence that fits the crime. I hope the Kinshasa police will do right.