Friday, 11 November 2011

Death Warrants –President Kibaki’s Leadership Failure

For the first time in the history of our nation, ordinary citizens are beginning to have faith in the judiciary. Since independence, patronage, corruption, and dearth of the rule of the law plagued our entire legal system making it dysfunctional. However, the situation is improving dramatically and ordinary Kenyans are very optimistic thanks to the constitutional reforms being implemented by the Judicial Service Commission and the Chief Justice in particular. However, in the ongoing criminal justice system reforms, there is a big elephant in the room and it’s the failure by the President to sign death warrants for criminals sentenced to death.
Apparently, President Kibaki like his predecessor has never signed any death warrants except for the soldiers convicted of the botched 1982 coup.

The failure by the President to sign death warrants is seriously undermining the effectiveness of the criminal justice system which is predicated on the concept of punishment as a deterrent. There are those who hold the position that the death sentence is ineffective in deterring crime while others hold the position that it is a cruel and unjust punishment. However, the position that the death sentence is ineffective in deterring crime is selective and baseless because the entire criminal justice system is predicated on the concept of punishment as a deterrent. The position that it is a cruel and unjust punishment is also baseless because there's absolutely nothing Biblically or morally wrong about the death sentence. Ironically, many of the people who oppose the death penalty for hardened criminals because this they think it is a barbaric act, they are the very same people who support the slaughter of unborn babies through abortion.

The failure to sign death warrants is keeping death row convicts in suspense indefinitely something which is psychologically traumatising to hardcore criminals. Be that as it may, these notorious criminals are not idling by in prison, sorry for their crimes; they are still engaged in criminal activity and they are constantly trying to figure out a way of escape something which is endlessly and needlessly burdening prison wardens. Death row convicts aren’t being reformed; they are increasingly being hardened and skilled and God forbid any of them succeeds in escaping. The prison reforms initiated by Moody Awori that were intended to transform prisons into correctional facilities stalled with his exit from office and now our prisons have become centres of excellence in crime especially fraud. The Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, under whose docket the prisons fall, has failed miserably yet he unashamedly wants us to entrust him with the complexities of governing the entire nation. God forbid!

In prison, convicts are maintained at the taxpayers’ expense and the cost of keeping the death row convicts in prison is huge and that cost is simply unjustifiable. Seeing that these convicts are not sorry for their crimes and they are still engaged in criminal activity behind bars, is it really fair for their victims and other law abiding citizens to continue paying for their upkeep even as they continue committing more crimes behind bars and transferring their skills to other inmates who are supposed to be reforming? I don’t think so.

Whereas Kenyans are upbeat about reforms in the legal system, the rising wave of heinous violent crimes and the increasing cases of blatant extrajudicial executions by the police is perplexing and Kenyans are understandably ambivalent concerning the promise of being governed by the rule of the law. In a 2009 UN report, the Kenya Police were accused of extrajudicial killings which as the report said are; ‘widespread, systematic and are carefully planned and undertaken on a regular basis.’ The findings in that report are neither unfounded nor anything new to Kenyans. Despite the international condemnation, the barbarism of extrajudicial executions rages on. Several months ago, an astonishing incident of extrajudicial execution shook the nation. Some policemen waylaid three men in a car that was held up in the normal early morning traffic jam along Lang’ata road. They ordered the unarmed men to come out which they did with their hands raised above their heads in surrender. The men were then ordered to lie on the ground in the middle of the busy road which they did and then the police executed the man by shooting them in the head at point-blank range in full view of terrified motorists.

There are many who think that the rampant cases of extrajudicial executions are because the police are a law unto themselves while others feel that the police are trigger-happy. Certainly, there are a few bad elements in the Police Service but the root cause of extrajudicial executions has always been the dysfunctional legal system. For obvious reasons, the police know very well the extent of the rot in the justice system and they more than anybody else, have no faith in the courts. And since they have to maintain a semblance of law and order by whatever means necessary, they have had no choice but to resort to taking the law into their own hands and hence extrajudicial executions.

Whereas the barbarism of extrajudicial executions is attributable to the dysfunctional legal system, the failure by the President to sign death warrants for convicts on death row has also courted the problem and undermined the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The President has no excuse whatsoever for not signing those death warrants. Certainly, there are some death row convicts who were unjustly accused for others there was a mistrial yet they have been sentenced to death on charges unjustly and they pose a serious dilemma but that is no excuse for the President to bury his head in the sand. The number of death row convicts to be executed is also not challenge at all as the shortage of executioners is imaginary; besides, executioners can be outsourced. The President has a sacred duty to wield the sword of justice and his failure to sign death warrants is a serious dereliction of duty with dire consequences for our nation.

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