Death penalty is bar­baric

The African - - SPECIAL REPORT - BY KHALID S MTWANGI

Death penalty is bar­baric. So un­equiv­o­cally de­clared Baba wa Taifa, the late Mwalim Julius Kam­barage Ny­erere at one time. At that time no one would have ex­pected to hear a dis­sent­ing voice and in­deed there was none.

It is un­der­stood that dur­ing his time as the Pres­i­dent of this coun­try he signed only two death war­rant, one of which was in ef­fect a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion that had per­haps to be taken.

Mwamwindi of Iringa had to die if only be­cause he had the temer­ity, the folly, to kill, or pos­si­bly, as­sas­si­nate a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure of high stand­ing. Some opin­ion was float­ing about at that time that the killing com­mit­ted by Mwa­mindi was sim­ply some crim­i­nal­ity and had lit­tle or noth­ing to do with the politics of the day.

The killer was sim­ply an ig­no­rant peas­ant farmer who was, in fact, apo­lit­i­cal. Be that as it may, the late Mwalim did find it ap­pro­pri­ate to sign the death war­rant, his loathing of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment notwith­stand­ing. How­ever, it must be said that at that time there were per­haps a few of small time politi­cians who were of the opin­ion that the killer, Mwa­mindi, de­served some compassionate con­sid­er­a­tion.

He had given him­self up to the Po­lice sta­tion where he had also de­liv­ered the dead body of the vic­tim. Cer­tainly, they averred, there was no mal­ice afore thought in the hor­ri­ble act. The opin­ion was that a life sen­tence would have been a lot more ag­o­nis­ing whereas the agony must have dis­ap­peared in a flash once the death sen­tence was car­ried out.

There were also those who ven­tured to sug­gest that the Mwal­imu’s stature would have as­sumed a tinge of mes­sianic pro­por­tions had he re­duced the pun­ish­ment to life im­pris­on­ment. It would ap­pear though the po­lit­i­cal colouring if the killing was over­whelm­ing.

Be that as it may; the fact of the mat­ter was that de­spite his ex­pressed dis­taste of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment he did not, out of purely po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ments, want to spare the life of Mwamwindi.

How­ever, de­spite what could have been cer­tainly a mat­ter of ex­pe­di­ence on his part, one should agree with the late Mwalim Julius Kam­barage Ny­erere that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is bar­baric. That kind of sen­ti­ment is wide spread around the world.

Such opin­ion had been ex­pressed in ear­lier writ­ings to the press. Be­ing but a min­ion in the world of pub­lic opin­ion those views have in­vari­ably been ig­nored. But not by ev­ery­one who have read the sub­mis­sions.

A few have had the benev­o­lence of let­ting know that they have read the sub­mis­sions such that once or twice they have said in no un­cer­tain terms that only a heretic could ex­pressed those views. They did no like what they had read and had no qualms telling off in no un­cer­tain terms that only a heretic could ex­press such opin­ion on the death penalty.

Ap­par­ently, Is­lam edicts that a mur­derer who has been con­victed of an un­law­ful killing in a prop­erly con­sti­tuted court of law, must be ex­e­cuted. The Qur’an, as ev­ery­one knows, is sacro­sanct, cer­tainly to Mus­lims and this au­thor sub­scribes to the teach­ing of the Qur’an and the Ha­dith one hun­dred per cent.

Hence any­one who preaches some­thing dif­fer­ent or sug­gests any­thing that con­tra­dicts that holy book is a heretic. Notwith­stand­ing this au­thor is does of­fer that sug­ges­tion yet is not for two sim­ple rea­sons.

While in­deed the Qur’an ex­pressly edicts that any­one who has been con­victed of mur­der, pre­med­i­tated mur­der or not and the law court has been sat­is­fied that the man is in­deed guilty must (yes MUST) be ex­e­cuted. The aya (verse) in the Qur’an is un­equiv­o­cal as such there are no two ways about it. The con­victed mur­derer be ex­e­cuted; but must he die? It is worth re­mem­ber­ing that Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence al­lows for some al­ter­na­tives.

It had hap­pened in Saudi Ara­bia that a con­victed mur­derer was let go free while at the point of be­ing ex­e­cuted. He al­ready was on the block the sheikh had re­cited the last prayers and the ex­e­cu­tioner was ready to ex­e­cute his duty. At that point the fa­ther of the vic­tim of the mur­der was at hand to wit­ness the ret­ri­bu­tion.

At that crit­i­cal time though the fa­ther ap­peared to have been over­come by a strong im­pulse that, one would spec­u­late, that spelled “RE­PRIEVE” in cap­i­tal let­ters. He shouted at the ex­e­cu­tioner and the of­fi­cial­dom that was around “Al­lahu Ak­bar. I for­give him”. Truly the con­vict was let go free. This means that those who are wronged ex­er­cised clemency and the law set the

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