Death penalty is against the Ubuntu African philosophyBy CRISPY KAHERU | Thursday, July 12 2012 at 11:26
In a few months to come, Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Coincidentally, a few days ago, I came across an online journal with the most powerful quotes about democracy and human rights.
One of the quotes was by former President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who once remarked that, “Democracy is not like a bottle of CocaCola, which you can import”. It got me thinking about a host of things that we import from ‘outside countries’ without even a speck of thought on whether they are compliant to our local environment.
One of those externally originated things that really irk me is sections of our laws. Probably, the law is also NOT like a bottle of Coca Cola, which you can import. It is a virtue that is or should be hinged on people’s ways of life, customs, practices, and values.
From my non-legal perspective, I think the laws that most of the countries have are an influence of the ancient Egypt and sometimes aspects of the European law.
It is absurd to note that some societies could have institutionalised these laws wholesale as a ‘one-size-fit-all’ agenda.
When the colonialists handed over ‘independence’ to the various countries, their law stayed behind and was inherited by the then post-independence governments. And probably these mechanically inapplicable laws are the raison d’etre for the present incessant crumple of the social structure in most countries.
Having had a chance to follow the debate on the death penalty, I opine that this is yet another law that has been mechanically pushed to fit in our culture, not only as Ugandans, but also as people of the African soil.
Time immemorial, the knot tying the African culture has been Ubuntu, literally meaning humanism.
Humanism is a trajectory of reason, ethics and values and espouses focus on human values and concerns.
Well, a death penalty not only contravenes the God-given right to life, but also grossly dispels the Ubuntu African philosophy.
Probably those who condemn persons to death are self proclaimed superhuman beings and possibly should be exonerated from life on planet earth.
Similarly, after watching a lot of the Crime TV Channels and seeing real life experiences of wrongful executions that have been happening for hundreds of years worldwide, I remain troubled by those societies that still retain the death penalty as part of their law books.
Of course it is common knowledge that no system is perfect. Not even the criminal justice system. Those imperfections become apparent when someone is the innocent victim of the death penalty.
Therefore, seeing a country like Uganda still embracing the death penalty is regrettably mystifying. Actually the uncountable, infamous documented cases of wrongful executions should bear strong influence to countries like Uganda to abolish capital punishment.
Based on the wide range of literature on the death penalty that I have reviewed, it does not seem like its origin is in Africa.
Without an iota of doubt, I think it is time for countries to delete this penalty from their law books because it is inhuman, cruel and archaic, notwithstanding the fact that it is subject to irreversible life-taking human errors.
If there is any fleck of reason to find in the death penalty for murderers or capital offenders, then probably it means we should punish robbers by robbing them and the rapists by raping them.
Worth noting, there is probably nothing like ‘death penalty’, but rather premeditated, carefully thought-out, ceremonial killing. It is undeniably time for Uganda to revolutionise its laws to match the Ubuntu principles and abolish the death penalty.
Mr Kaheru is the project coordinator - Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda
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