Crime in Africa and the Death Penalty

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While the death penalty is abolished in the West and some other developed countries, many other countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. have in fact increased the number of executions by the death penalty.

On the other hand, some African leaders have argued that criminal justice must reflect the society where it is applied. Does that explain, perhaps,   why the USA, seemingly, the oasis of democracy in the world, still practices the death penalty up till today? Many have attributed the high violence in the USA as the reason behind the death penalty. But is harsh punishment always the solution to violent or aggravated crime? Not always the case. A closer look at the Scandinavia countries (Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden) reveals an interesting contrast. Norway, for example, has one of the most liberal criminal justice systems in the world, yet it has equally a very low crime rate ““ in fact, some of the lowest in the world. How can one explain this? Perhaps, a convincing explanation is that harsh criminal justice is not always the solution to high crimes. But how can one explain the reduction of crimes in some African countries, simply because citizens have taken laws into their hands and dealt with criminals who otherwise were accused of bribing the law enforcement agents for their freedom?

Billionaire kidnapper,  Evans

Then again, looking at the congenital die-hard attitude of many criminal ““ especially in Africa, one might be tempted to call for the death penalty ““ especially having in mind that most of these harden criminals are either working on a collaboration with the law enforcement agents or being protected by the same agents, who are supposed to fight them.  On the other hand, when one talks about criminals in Africa, often our minds go to the night marauders and bandits, some who are forced into the act due to lack of opportunities in the society. But what of our politicians and leaders who steal billions from the nation’s coffer without remorse? Worse still, the stolen money is in most cases, transferred to the Western countries instead of being invested locally to help create jobs. Of course, it is not the opinion of this writer that stealing of any kind should be encouraged. When we advocate the death penalty, would our fastidious leaders who steal billions be exempted from the harsh justice?

On 10 June, a notorious kidnapper, who has been terrorizing Lagos, Nigeria, was arrested. The 36- year old kidnapper, Chukwudi Onuamadike (Alias Evans), who has confessed to 13 counts of high-profile kidnapping was the head of a kidnapping syndicate that operated in different states and cities in Nigeria, targeting mainly several traditional rulers and wealthy businessmen. The gangs terrorised not only their victims, but they have equally made millions from the kidnapping business. Often, the families of their victims were demanded to pay as much as 500 million Naira (1.4 million dollars) ransom before the kidnaped beloved ones were released. To prove the uncompromising nature of the gang, the kidnapped victims were often kept up to 7 months until the last cent of the demanded amount was paid. During his arrest on 10 June, the millionaire kidnapper was wearing a $170,000 designer wrist watch. The Kidnap don effectively helped the law enforcement agents to arrest most of his accomplices. Now that the kidnap King and his ignominious crime princes have been arrested, the authorities are insisting on the death penalty for the kidnappers.   Would the authorities be seen as too high-handed in their wish to hand over these men of the underworld the death penalty?

 one of the houses of the kidnapper


What of the terrorists, who massacre innocent people with impunity? The authorities in Kenya have yesterday arrested six devilish elements who are accused of trying to bomb strategic places in Kenya. The arrested individuals are believed to be working together with the terrorist group Al Shabaab. The inglorious bombings and killing of innocent people in Somalia, Kenya and less we forget, Uganda, by terrorists are still fresh in our minds. Would such merciless individuals deserve nothing less than a death penalty, some have wondered.

While one acknowledges the gravity of the menace of men and women of the underworld, it will be necessary for us to ask what has created the situations that give rise to the anarchy. Could it be inequality, joblessness, lack of social amenities, insatiable greed, corruption of the security apparatus? Until various African governments take the above-mentioned (and other) issues into consideration in the death penalty debate, the discussion on the subject will go endlessly on.