Category: In brief
Created: Monday, 15 October 2012 11:13
Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2012 11:54
Published: Monday, 15 October 2012 11:13
Written by Biko Agozino & BBC News
Gambia has embarked on what Wole Soyinka indelibly condemned as Kongi's Harvest: Mass Executions.
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria was reported as comparing the mass executions to the Rwanda genocide. All African states should avoid hypocrisy and appropriately respond to Gambia's display of barbarism by abolishing the death penalty in Africa the way Nelson Mandela did in South Africa at a time that the assassins of Chris Hani were still awaiting trial and could have been given the death penalty.
The reasons for abolishing the death penalty across Africa are:
1) The death penalty was imposed on Africans by colonial authorities and those colonizing countries have since abolished it in their own countries because the death penalty is barbaric and unconstitutional.
2) The death penalty leads to increased violence and homicide given that the states that have the death penalty also record higher rates of homicide. This is called the brutalization effect or the impact of state sanctioned killing on the psyche of citizens who tend to follow the example of the state by killing fellow citizens to settle disputes. Across Africa, the death penalty is no deterrent to violent crime maybe because the fear of the death penalty makes criminals to attempt to eliminate all witnesses.
3) The margin of error is huge in the death penalty and once executed, there is no way to correct the wrongful killing of innocent suspects like Ken Saro-Wiwa whereas a life sentence would give the innocent more chances of proving their innocence.
4) Violent criminals are more afraid of life sentences than the death penalty and some of them attempt suicide in prison rather than spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Life sentences would also allow society to attempt to reform dangerous criminals.
5) Nigeria should follow the good example of South Africa and immediately abolish the death penalty as contravening the human rights provisions in our constitution. Prof. Ben Nwabueze argued accordingly in his critique of the borrowing of the death penalty from the American Presidential Constitution by the drafters of the 1979 Nigerian Presidential Constitution.
6) The death penalty is biased against poor black men and is therefore arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment.
For public discussions of the scholarly evidence, see the earlier post here:
And just to show that sometimes people listen: