Death penalty can deter the many ugly crimes in Kenya today


A gavel and a name plate with the engraving Death Penalty. [iStock Photos]

Kenya’s social fabric is fraying. Corruption scandals pop up so often everywhere like weeds. Violent crime, particularly robbery with violence leading to loss of innocent lives and property, is leaving citizens feeling increasingly unsafe. It’s almost as if Kenya is soft on serious crimes and is powerless to do anything to curb it – more so when the accused persons are part of the elite. We should never lose sight of the fact that victims lives matter too. In the quest for justice, rehabilitation should not trump over retribution.

Former US President Ronald Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” And in a separate speech, “For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system.” It appears that this is the case in Kenya. Rampant corruption where public resources are siphoned from vital sectors like healthcare, education and infrastructure continues unabated, with seemingly no consequences. In Kenya, corruption is profitable.

We need a more potent deterrent and I believe proper administration of the death penalty could be the masterstroke to restore a sense of order – especially as regards corruption and murder. The death penalty exists in our law but there have been no recorded executions since 1987. Decades of non-implementation have left many Kenyans unfamiliar with the power of capital punishment as a hindrance to serious crimes.

Opponents often raise the spectre of wrongful convictions. However, advancements in forensic science, coupled with robust legal systems that include thorough appeals processes, significantly mitigate this risk.

According to the 2019 Population and Housing Census, 85.5 per cent of Kenyans identify as Christians. Indeed, the First Lady’s decision to establish a prayer committee of intercessors on government payroll, is a clear illustration that we are a nation whose leadership believes in the power of prayer. As such, prayer is now a governance strategy in Kenya and the leadership prays for everything: From rainfall, to road accident hot spots, to the economy, to Kenyan troops being deployed to lawless Haiti – possibly to their deaths.

As a predominantly Christian nation, it is important to highlight compelling evidence from the Bible in favour of the death penalty. Leviticus 24:17 says, “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.” This message is again repeated in verse 21 of the same chapter. The Bible does not reject capital punishment. Instead, our just God, through the holy book, calls us to uphold justice. This sets the stage for a person to be killed justly if they have killed unjustly.

We often admire the Asian Tigers for building strong, vibrant and sustainable economies. Singapore, a nation consistently lauded for its low crime rates, attests that part of their success is hinged on capital punishment. For the most serious offenses, like drug trafficking and murder, Singapore employs the death penalty with unwavering enforcement. Similar success is evident in Japan, another nation with remarkably low crime rates. Their retention of the death penalty for egregious crimes sends a clear message: Certain acts carry the ultimate price.

For families shattered by violent crimes, particularly murders, the death penalty offers a measure of justice. Knowing the perpetrator has faced the greatest penalty can provide closure, a sense that justice has been served.

The death penalty debate is multifaceted. However, the experiences of other countries and the specific challenges Kenya faces, suggest its careful implementation can yield significant social benefits. By deterring crime, protecting public resources, and offering some semblance of closure to victims’ families, the death penalty can be a powerful tool in creating a safer, more just Kenya.

Ms Taa is a Communications and Public Affairs Consultant. [email protected]