Death Penalty. Is it African or UnAfrican?

Opinion Piece

The death penalty has dominated most African countries since the period of colonialism. It was a drive of the white supremacy created to instill panic and bond foreign domination. Should African governments abolish it or not? What impact does it have on the current world?

On the afternoon of July 24, 1971, a multitude of people converged on the shores of Nigeria’s Bar Beach to eyewitness the execution of Babatunde Folorunsho, a disreputable armed robber, and two other men apprehended for sidling.

One of them was being executed for looting a loudspeaker and a record player. These people were the first ever to be killed publicly in Nigeria for stealing. One of them was heard asking if all that multitude had come to see him being killed and yet he committed no crime.

These robbers were the first to be executed in public on death row, but they would not be the last ones. After their death, Nigeria has killed many convicts in public.

Months after, many people gathered to watch a throng of eight looters being shot to death by troopers. In July 1990, 42 troopers were killed by firing a gang in Nigeria for their part in coup de tat with 27 more troopers killed later.

In July 1995, 43 thieves were executed by the firing gang as a multitude of about 1000 people watched. Immediately after that, in November 1995, environment activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other affiliates of the Ogoni minority group were killed by hanging.

Nigeria’s most current killing was in 2016, where three convicts were executed. More than 3000 individuals are presently on death row in Nigeria, and in August, the government reported it was arranging to kill all the convicts on death row. This raised an alarm in the West African nation, where there has been a more than 18 percent increase in the number of convicts.

Besides, Nigeria’s appetite for the killing sentence is not weird in Africa. At least 5731 individuals were approximated to be on death row covering sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, and only 23 of the 55 African Union member states have stamped out the death penalty for all crimes. Sierra Leone is the most recent one to scrap.

Nonetheless, African governments’ appetite for death row is not wholly a homegrown situation. It has extensive doctrinal and historical roots.  Many of the current laws can be tracked down to the colonial period.

The death penalty’s colonial genesis is dominant since some Africans, even those who consider themselves strongly anti-colonial, desist to shield the death penalty. Many times, citing detritus of colonial laws or doctrine backing instigated by brutal colonial regimes.

Africa is seen as a minority as injustices that unfairly affect the few on the continent and capital punishment is one of them.

As of March 2018, in Kenya for example, many of more than 800 persons on death row were poor, illiterate, and dwelled in rural settings. This means they have no or unlimited access to justice. They are a simple target for the police. As stated by a senior Kenyan judicial officer, only one man and one woman had a formal education out of the 142 male and 25 female death row convicts.

It is not wrong to deduce that in the continent, capital punishments, prey marginalized persons.

In 2012, Intisar Sharif Abdallah, a teenage mother, was convicted to death by stoning for adultery in Sudan. The man who had alleged to have committed the offense with her was not convicted.

Under Mauritania’s stern Islamic laws, individuals found culpable of homosexuality can be condemned to death by stoning. Correspondingly, before it was scrapped, in South Africa, 95 percent of individuals were convicted to death during apartheid were black while all those who convicted them were white.

The first capital punishment historically put down happened in 16th century BC Egypt. During this period in Egypt, the criminal, as a member of the aristocracy, was indicted of magic and commanded to kill him or herself.

In the past in ancient Egypt, capital punishment has inclined against a specific demographic. In the European colonialist era, capital punishment became an important aid for colonialists looking to keep their authority across Africa. They managed to do this through the use of state violence to infuse fear in the local people.

Britain depended on capital punishment in all of its African colonies, as well as France, Belgium, and Germany. Portuguese colonies that did not recognize capital punishments were the exception. These laws are still being practiced in some of the countries to date.

Public murder, which proceed to happen in many African nations to date, reinforced the control of the society and crushed any manner of dissent. The colonialist wanted native people to acknowledge that they were holding the power and would murder them in broad daylight if they dared them.

The dedication to crushing out dissent was emulated in South Africa too, where in the middle of 1961 and 1989, about 134 political convicts were killed by the apartheid government.

Whilst the West now has regard for itself as liberal concerning capital punishment while labeling Africa as primitive, many of the seemingly primitive judicial exercises in African nations date back to Western laws.

Abolition of capital punishment in Africa is critical. Abolitionist movements focusing on African nations or those devising within African nations require to uncover the exercise first true roots. This aid generally translates into out-of-court vigilante justice throughout Africa. Justice is weak and individuals do not trust the judicial service. In South Africa, vigilante justice is universal in destitute communities. Residents feel that those in power are not protecting them. Between April 2017 and March 2018, 849 individuals were murdered in South Africa in mob justice.

The design of Africans in many nations engaging in mob justice since they feel left out by the government is also linked to colonial period obsession. Betterment is only betterment when it is followed by historical tally, discernment, and accountability.

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