Uganda has followed Kenya into moving towards ending the death sentence. The Ugandan Parliament on Wednesday passed a law that abolishes the mandatory death penalty for certain crimes.
If approved by President Yoweri Museveni, the amendments will restrict the death penalty to just the most serious of crimes and only at the judge’s discretion.
This is a significant step into complete abolition of capital punishment. Kenya already moved into that direction when the Supreme Court, in 2017, declared mandatory death sentence unconstitutional.
And the ball is now in Tanzania’s court. Death sentence in Tanzania is maintained for four major offenses, which are murder, treason, terrorism and in military punishments.
Capital punishment is provided for by the Penal Code (Chapter 16) and the Terrorism Act 2002. In fact the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 does not absolutely guarantee the right to live as article 14 states that protection of a person’s life by the society should be subjected to the laws of the land.
The same Constitution vests the President with powers to sign the death warrant and commute death sentence into life imprisonment.
But there is hope. President John Magufuli has already shown his disdain to the death penalty and said he hopes that he would never sign a death warrant during his ten years in office.
In fact in 2017 President Magufuli pardoned 61 people who were on death row on reasons of sickness and old age.
Currently Tanzania has at least 496 people on death row as at the end of 2017. It is time to build on the momentum initiated by President Magufuli to abolish capital punishment.
The efforts should start with the necessary amendments of the Constitution to guarantee the right to life and protection of that life by the society.
Capital punishment should be abolished because it is inhumane as it is barbaric and degrading. Most African countries inherited the death penalty from colonial laws, whose aim was to apply barbaric violence to preserve colonial rule.