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Somalia remains lead executioner in Africa – Amnesty International  

Storyline:National News
File: Online

By Fauxile Kibet

Somalia and South Sudan are the only countries which carried out executions in the Sub-Saharan Africa last year, according to a report released Thursday by Amnesty International.

A total of 24 people faced the firing squad in Somalia last year while a further 124 people are known to be under sentence of death as at the end of 2017, the report notes.

The report also noted that 20 countries in the region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and added that the region had made tremendous steps in the global fight to abolish the death penalty.

The report calls the Sub-Sahara region a “beacon of hope” in the fight against capital punishment and observes that there was a general decline in executions worldwide.

In 2017, at least 993 cases were recorded in 23 countries, a 4% reduction from 2016 and 39% less than in 2015.

“At least 2,591 death sentences were recorded in 53 countries last year, down from a record high of 3,117 the year before. The numbers don’t include the thousands of executions and death sentences believes have occurred in China, where they are considered a state secret,” said Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty’s lead advocate for eliminating the death penalty.

The sentences of the condemned victims are likely to be replaced with less punitive punishments which are not considered to be inhumane.

But the human rights group warns that even though the sub-saharan region has recorded tremendous progress, a total victory against death penalty cannot be declared yet.

Botswana and South Sudan are reported to have resumed executions this year while in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said that he will sign the first death warrants in nearly two decades – in what was seen to be a move to instill fear among criminals.

While Amnesty international praised Kenya for putting limits to the used of capital punishment, the country was challenged to join the 20 countries in the region which have totally abolished it.

“Kenya has taken some progressive steps toward abolition, but it still has a way to go in reaching true abolition. There’s no political will (in Kenya) to carry out executions, so there’s no point in keeping a law on the books that isn’t being implemented,” Mr. Oluwatosin Popoola said.


The human rights body ranked Kenya on the same level as Uganda and Malawi and observed that Nigeria has the highest number of people under death sentence.

When Amnesty international started its campaign against death penalty in 1977, the use of this inhumane punishment was very common in sub-Saharan Africa.

But forty years later, the region has witnessed remarkable progress in the fight against capital punishment with 20 countries including Cape Verde, which did away with the punishment in 1981.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last carried out an execution in 2003 but it has continuously rejected recommendations to abolish death penalty all together.

In Malawi, even though the death penalty is applicable for certain crimes, the last known execution was carried out in 1992 and the country also still won’t consider abolition.

In Ghana however, President John Mahama commuted 21 death sentences to life imprisonment in commemoration of Ghana’s 54th Republic Day Anniversary.

Also, in Zimbabwe, according to government information no executions have so far been carried out. In fact, four people had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment and one person was exonerated in 2014.

This shows that there is a slow but promising trend across Africa to slowly turn its back against death penalty and executions, but it still can’t quite let it go.


The report lists China as the “world’s top executioner, although there are no official reports as the Asian country holds it as top secret. The London based body further observes that in 2016, 84 percent of the reported executions last year were carried out in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Countries resuming executions in 2017 according to the report include Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, while the United States remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions, with 23 last year, up slightly from the year before.

“In Iran, executions were down 11 percent and drug-related executions were reduced to 40 percent. In Malaysia, changes to anti-drug laws now allow discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking crimes.”

People with “mental or intellectual disabilities” were executed or faced a death sentence in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and the Maldives.