Is Kenya Justified to Retain the Death Penalty?
Posted by EMUSWAHILI at February 23rd, 2010
Kenya just like any other developing country is faced with the challenge of a rapidly growing population and a struggling economy. The stress on society from the combination of poverty and unemployment becomes a breeding ground for high-level crimes such as violent robberies and assaults that lead to murder.
Violent robberies in Kenya are considered by law as intent to commit homicide. So whether someone with an AK 47 Assault Rifle robs a bank, or someone uses a stick to steal a bicycle, both can receive a death sentence. Despite the death penalty not being carried out since 1983, the number of people on death row continues to rise.
The last known official executions in Kenya were in 1987 during former president Daniel Arap Moi’s time in office. Among those hanged were Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu, accused of organising the 1st August 1982 attempted coup.
Since then thousands have been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution. Between 2001 to 2005, a total of 3,741 were sentenced to be hanged – an average of 748 a year according to the Kenya Prisons Service.
Is it effective?
“I believe that even if someone has killed another, you do not correct the situation by killing another person. That leaves two dead people,” one activist said recently. What do you think about this? The family of the victim needs justice to be delivered; but can the hanging of the murderer be considered “fair and just?”
Currently death penalty inmates here are not allowed to work. This means that they have no savings or work experience to prepare them for life outside prison in the event of release.
On the other hand, human rights organizations have constantly questioned whether the death penalty helps to reduce violent crime, which is on the rise in Kenya – and suggested it may even be contributing to an increase in the number of murders committed.
An analyst indicated that there have been large numbers of young people involved in car-jacking, who then kill the victims in order to eliminate any witnesses of the crime. “They kill … for fear of conviction if the witness were to live to testify.” The analyst said, noting that the abolition of the death penalty would reduce the number of such murders.
The analyst also raised doubts about the guilt of some individuals currently on death row. Kenyans say that there have been claims of false accusations, and convictions without adequate evidence – especially in politically instigated cases of the one party state that Kenya was before 1992.
Since the death penalties remain unimplemented, analysts feel its inhuman and degrading to convict people and then leave them on death row for years on end, living in constant fear of execution. As a criminal justice defender I find this to be a double penalty and therefore unjust!
Kenyans feel that a lot more has to be done to make the prison institution more responsive to the prisoners’ needs. There are claims that regular trainings held for the prison officers and police units will improve the success rates of prisoner rehabilitation. Consequently, this will reduce the frequency and number of capital offences, and in turn, eliminate the need for a death penalty. What do you think?
Not all death row inmates are inspired by ill motive. For 16 years, Grace Mokeira sat on death row — one of more than 4,000 convicted Kenyans awaiting uncertainly for their fate. Grace was only 17 when the crime she was accused of committing took place, and should therefore have been considered a minor. But things changed when the President of the Republic of Kenya in August 2009 replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment.
Read Grace’s story at:
- Are countries justified in retaining the death penalty?
- Is the death penalty a good form of deterrence against capital crimes?