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Joseph Irungu alias Jowie was on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, sentenced to death after being found guilty of the murder of businesswoman Monica Kimani.

Jowie was found guilty of the murder of businesswoman Monica Kimani on February 9, 2024, but was sentenced to death on March 3.

In her ruling, Lady Justice Grace Nzioka noted that Kimani’s murder was not a defensive act or out of provocation but was planned, intended and executed.

Jowie’s death sentence has reignited the conversation on the death penalty in Kenya.

Some people actually think that Jowie is going to face the hangman’s noose in prison in case he doesn’t appeal his death sentence in higher courts and get a favourable ruling.

Well, in Kenya, thousands have been sentenced to death for various capital offences but no one has actually been executed since 1987 when Hezekiah Ochuka was hanged.

Ochuka was handed the death penalty after he was found guilty of treason for his role in the 1982 failed coup.

A group of disgruntled soldiers in August 1982 tried to overthrow the government of late President Daniel Arap Moi.

Ochuka, whose rank of Senior Private Grade-I, the second lowest rank in the Kenyan military, ruled Kenya for about six hours before the other faction of the military that was loyal to Moi ‘overthrew’ the insurrectionists.

The late junta leader was hanged at the Kamiti Maximum prison in July 1987 after court sentenced him to death.

The death penalty in Kenya is given as punishment to a person convicted of a capital offence.

Capital offences include; murder, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence or treason – all of which attract the death sentence.

However, Kenya no longer hangs those who are convicted of murder, robbery with violence and treason. Instead, their sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment.

In 2017, the Supreme Court declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional.

The apex court ruled that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional after two death row convicts Francis Karioko Muruatetu and Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi argued that it infringed on their right to life.

In July 2023, the Court of Appeal also declared the life imprisonment sentence unconstitutional.

Judges Pauline Nyamweya, Jessie Lesiit and George Odunga unanimously ruled that it is unfair to outlaw mandatory death sentences, only to order a person to remain behind bars until they die.

Despite a declaration by the Supreme Court in 2017 that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional, the courts still hand down death sentences as was the case with Jowie on March 13, 2024.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has been leading efforts to abolish the death sentence altogether.

In 2007 and 2015 the Kenyan Parliament voted against the abolition of the death penalty when bills were initiated by individual lawmakers.

Kenya is among a handful of African countries which are considered de facto abolitionist states, meaning that they have not carried out an execution in 10 years.

KNCHR last year lauded President William Ruto when he reduced the death sentence imposed on capital offenders to life sentences.

In a gazette notice dated July 19, 2023, the conviction rule was softened following a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy chaired by Attorney General Justin Muturi.

“This is a move in the right direction as it aligns Kenya with the global trends on the application of the death penalty. It is also in line with the various regional and international treaties and conventions that Kenya has ratified including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).

“As a Commission, we continue to hold the position that the Death Penalty is the ultimate violation of human rights, disproportionately affects the poor, and as such has no place in our society,” KNCHR said in a statement following Ruto’s move.

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