Judith Verweijen has written an interesting post about her recent research on justice populaire in the Kivus. I’ve always thought of mob justice as a reaction to the state’s inability to provide security or prosecute those accused of wrong-doing, but Verweijen points out that it may also be a response to the declining authority of customary officials.
In some places, vigilante committees, sometimes dominated by demobilized soldiers, have been key in orchestrating the killings. This has been especially the case where vigilantes have taken on the role of assessing witchcraft allegations, which are the second major source of mob justice next to crime suspicions. … The events in the chefferie (chiefdom) of Wagongo in Mahagi territory seem to corroborate this conclusion. In the course of a recent visit, I was told that there had been a strong increase in witchcraft-related mob justice since a conflict around customary power had split the vieux-sages (old, wise men) into two opposing camps, thus reducing their capacity to credibly deal with these cases.
The whole piece is worth reading.