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Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Death Penalty In Kenya: Do you support it?

The death penalty has yet again been upheld by parliament. This is a sad day for Kenya with respect to human rights and also in the eyes of god. Most MPs are known to publicly abhor I am totally opposed to this legistlation Chris, do you support it? Kenya has this law in the statutes but it doesn't practice death penalty beyond conviction, which is worse than those who practice like the USA.

Because Kenya still retains the death penalty, there are thousands of convicts on deathrow awaiting their date with the hangman noose. Although no executions have been carried out since 1987, one has to think and imagine what it feels like to wake up in jail each morning not knowing what it means to stay alive. And this goes on for these condemned individuals for up to 20 years! Is it really just and humane to keep a deathrow convict in suspense for period of time?

The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, treason, robbery with violence or attempted robbery with violence and for administration of an unlawful oath to commit a capital offence. A lot of people assume rape is a capital offence. Unless there is robbery or murder involved rape does not constitute a capital offence. By law the death penalty may not be imposed on anyone under 18 years of age at the time of the offence, a pregnant woman or an insane person.

In 1987, 168 people were sentenced to death (most of them being 1982 abortive coup plotters). Many prisoners on death row in Kamiti, Shimo-la-Tewa, Naivasha GK Prison and Kodiaga in Kisumu have died as a result of a combination of factors including, stress, appalling prison conditions and old age. The Court of Appeal is sometimes known to overturn life sentences to the death penalty for capital offences!

The death penalty is unjust, barbaric and denies due process of law. Its imposition is arbitrary and irrevocable. It forever deprives an individual of benefits of new evidence or new law that might warrant the reversal of a conviction or the setting aside of a death sentence. Of course, the death penalty does not in any way UNDO or REVERSE whatever crime it was that led to the conviction.

My take on this is that President Kibaki, as a christian and an elder, is just too scared of signing death warrants for condemned prisoners. It is a topic he completely steered clear off when minister Kiraitu Murungi (himself a long time human rights activist) wanted to introduce in parliament during their first months in power. The constitution provides for the Prerogative of Mercy and the President has the right to pardon or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence. Infact, in the year he took power, (2003) President Kibaki commuted the death sentences of 223 inmates which was then very commendable.

Chris, suppose you were president, can you imagine yourself appending your signature as a finality on a convict's death warrant? The also imagine doing it for the thousands of condemned prisoners during your reign as president?

It is generally agreed that most of the violent crimes committed in Kenya today are by 'young people' (ie below 25 years old). And crime rates are going up rather than reducing despite these laws. Because of inexperience and in the process of committing violent crime, defenseless victims are killed even when they offer no resistance or immediate threat - only because young criminals don't leave any potential witnesses alive only because they fear these witnesses could testify and lead to their conviction on death penalty!

It is high time known reformist and human rights activitis like Kivutha Kibwana, Kiraitu Murungi, Koigi Wa Wamwere (himself a victim of this law) and Martha Karua - all of whom hold influential positions in government - do something worth their presence in government even if not political reasons. And that is they should lobby strongly for the death penalty to be abolished in Kenya whether through and act of parliament or through a referendum. It should be done away with!

This is a guest post by Phil

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Waititu Warima said...

I totally support the death penalty.
The death penalty is the only way to ensure that people who commit atrocious crimes do not return back into society some 20 years later, after a politically inspired presidential pardon.

I tell you Phil, until your loved one has been hacked to death by some idiot, you can never understand why the death penalty is neccesary.

Oluoch said...

Mr. Phill,
I respect your right to have an opinion advocating for the repeal of the death penalty. But like Waititu, I fully and totally support the death penalty.

With all respect, until you are faced by marauding thugs in your own house, killing and raping your loved ones (Infact rape should be made a capital offence), you'll never dare to use words such as “ the death penalty is unjust, barbaric and denies due process of law.”

What an insult to all the victims of vicious criminal gangs in Kenya. What about their right to life? Ah. What about it Mr. Phill?

Phil said...

Perhaps you didnt understand my argument Messrs. Warima and Oluoch.

First, whats the purpose of a judge handing criminals death sentences if the actual hanging will not be carried out?

And secondly, cases of wrongful convictions are numerous, if you hanged an individual then later realised he was innocent, how does he regain his life?

Thirdly, in as much as serious offences must be severely punished, carrying out a death sentence achieves very little objective in pacifying those who remain alive. ie the victims and the family of the criminal.

Humans are not animals, and they can be reformed. Many factors factors drive criminal minds and we can only help society first eliminating these myriad of negative forces that influence society.

NJERI said...

I do not, cannot and shall not support the death penalty as means of punishment. I think it is just a short cut to the solution and unfortunately it only seems to affect the poor man. Realistically, the justice system is run by human beings who cannot necessarily determine the truth; justice is hampered by human bias, like it or not.

Many people the world over have been penalised by death over crimes they did not even commit, what say you over that?? Waititu and Oluoch what if that was you, would you still advocate for such a heinous punishment? There are also crimes of "necessity" when a wife (or husband) kills her husband (or wife) for physical, sexual and emotional torture, does the death penalty come across as the solution? When a parent kills his/her child's molester? When a poor man is forced to rob with a penknife to feed his family??

"Poor man he robs with a gun, rich man he use a pen to steal"

I think the death penalty is an emotional rather than a logical way of dealing. What do they say "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"? Any victim of violent crime will tell you, the death of the accused does not take the pain away? It may seem to but it never really does.

It makes more sense to put our resources to making society better.... finding out why and killing the problem rather than the afflicted.


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