Capital punishment in Kenya

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Capital punishment has been practiced in Kenya since before independence and is still provided for under Kenyan law. No executions have been carried out in Kenya since 1987,[1] when Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were hanged for treason.[2]

In 2009, Kenya commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment, impacting over 4,000 death row inmates. The move was made to compel these prisoners to work, something condemned men are exempted.[3]

Despite the lack of executions, death sentences are still passed in Kenya. In July 2013, Ali Babitu Kololo was sentenced to death for his role in the murder and kidnapping of two British tourists,[4] and in 2014 a nurse received a death sentence after being convicted of carrying out an abortion on a woman who subsequently died.[5]


Capital punishment was introduced in Kenya in 1893 by the colonial government; the practice was uncommon in pre-colonial communities, which placed a high value on human life.[6] In general, most African communities did not impose a death sentence on an individual unless as a last resort for an offender who had repeatedly "made themselves dangerous beyond the limits of endurance of their fellows".[7] The penal code as created by the British required a mandatory death penalty for murder, treason and armed robbery. Numerous executions, documented as 1,090 in number, were carried out by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau Uprising.[7]

After the 1982 coup d'état attempt, Hezekiah Ochuka, Pancras Oteyo Okumu and two other masterminds of the coup were convicted of treason, sentenced to death and consequently hanged. They were the last people executed in Kenya to date.[6]

In 2010, the Court of Appeal repealed the mandatory death sentence for murder in Mutiso v. Republic, the third national court in common-law Africa to do so.[8]

In 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted the death sentences of 2,747 inmates on death row to life imprisonment, as was done by President Mwai Kibaki seven years previously, where he commuted the sentences of 4,000 inmates on death row to life imprisonment.[9]

A widely circulated report in 2018-19 claimed that the government had announced its intent to reintroduce the death penalty for wildlife poaching. However, this is inaccurate, and there are no such plans.[10]


  1. ^ "Plan on to remove death penalty: AG". 30 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Kenya National Commission On Human Rights - Abolition Of The Death Penalty In Kenya" (PDF). Kenya National Commission On Human Rights. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  3. ^ "BBC News - Kenya empties its death-row cells". Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  4. ^ "David and Judith Tebbutt: Kenya imposes death sentence". BBC News. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  5. ^ "Kenyan nurse gets death penalty for abortion". BBC News. 2014-09-25. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  6. ^ a b Gisesa, Nyambega (2 July 2014). "Origin and history of death penalty in Kenya". The Standard. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  7. ^ a b Hynd, Stacey (2012). "Murder and Mercy: Capital Punishment in Colonial Kenya, ca. 1909—1956". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 45 (1). JSTOR 23267172.
  8. ^ Novak, Andrew (2012). "Constitutional reform and the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Kenya". Suffolk University Law Review. 45 (2): 285.
  9. ^ Payton, Matt (25 October 2016). "Kenya commutes sentences of all death row inmates". The Independent. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  10. ^ "No, Kenya is not introducing the death penalty for wildlife poachers". AFP Fact Check. 11 April 2019.