Kenyan Government took one step closer to what many see as doing away with death penalty after President Mwai Kibaki ordered all the current sentences for 4000 death-row inmates in Kenya prisons be commuted to life imprisonment.
However the president was categorical that this did not abolish the death penalty as a punishment for capital offense.
A statement released by the Presidential Press Service (PPS) on Monday 3rd August, 2009 stated that: “In exercise of powers conferred upon him by the Constitution sections 27 (C) and 29 (2) President Kibaki, upon the advice of the Constitutional Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, said that the decision was necessitated upon consideration of many prevailing facts”
President Kibaki said that by commuting these sentences to life imprisonment, the affected inmates will be able to work. As per law, those sentence to be executed are not supposed to work, and are usually secluded, under 24 hour watch from prison authorities.
According to the President, this led to idleness, which in turn affected discipline in prisons. It also impacted on the prisoners' mental health.
Since 1987, no inmate under death penalty has been executed.
This announcement by the government has been lauded by the Catholic Church in Kenya and other human rights activists as a ‘step in the right direction towards abolishing death penalty from our statutes’.
Even more heartening is a direction from the President that the government is to assess whether the punishment was having any impact on the fight against crime.
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