Capital punishment in Kenya

This author has on more than one occasion argued against the death penalty, arguing as others more eloquent and read than I have, that the death of one innocent person outweighs all the benefits to society achieved through the death penalty. There are many places in the world where the death penalty is still in the statute books. There are occasions I have been almost persuaded that having the death penalty is good so there is a way to deal with politicians and the corporate types who collapse banks with people’s savings and the like. I believe, however, that an active volcano would do just fine for this group of miscreants.

But I digress. Capital punishment was introduced in Kenya by the Brits (remember they came to civilize the Africans: sarc) in 1893. While it’s use was not so prevalent in the early days of the colonial state, it got to a crescendo during the emergency years and from what I have read, many Africans were hanged on very flimsy grounds, rules of evidence were swept aside and the conduct of the cases were such that the accused in many cases were not represented. In short, there was miscarriage of justice in the interests of the crown.

It appears also that its application was racially motivated or biased, if the comments of the District Commissioner for Nyeri is to be believed. In 1921, the DC is reported as having said

sometimes i wonder whether in this country, capital punishment is not inflicted on natives more often than is necessary to attain the ends of justice. (Hynd, 2012).

In my conclusion, my other argument for abolishing capital punishment in Kenya is because it is a colonial relic instituted not so much for the interests of justice but law and order.


Hynd S (2012) Toward a History of Violence in Colonial Kenya. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 45 1 pp 88-101