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Death Penalty Information

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kenya: Prisons hit by an upsurge in number of death row inmates
April 2

Prisons Hit By an Upsurge in Number of Death Row Convicts

Local prisons are facing an accommodation crisis, with the population of
death row inmates shooting up by the day.
Prison authorities are warning that the situation could get worse as
courts countrywide continue to sentence violent crime suspects to hang.
The new cases add to a backlog of some that have remained unexecuted for
decades and others awaiting hearing of their appeals.
There are over 900 such inmates at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison
alone. About the same number are being held at the Naivasha Maximum
Security Prison.
Holding cell
At Kamiti, authorities have been forced to convert an ordinary cell block
into a holding cell for death row inmates.
Until recently, death row inmates were only held in 'Condemn A'
'Isolation' and 'Condemn G'.
Apart from the 272 awaiting the hangman's noose at Kamiti, 700 others
sentenced to death by different courts around the country are still
awaiting the hearing of their appeals.
"There are approximately 900 death row inmates at Kamiti Maximum Security
Prison and the courts are sentencing more yet we have never had executions
since 1987," said Mr Peter Njuguna, the officer-in-charge.
The situation, sources among inmates and human rights groups say, is
replicating itself in other penal institutions countrywide, with more
people being sentenced to death for violent crime.
Mr Henry Maina of the Legal Resource Foundation, which has been working
with convicts, said they had noted a daily surge in death row convict
"We have noticed an increase in the number of convicts including those on
death row in the three major prison namely, Kamiti Naivasha and Shimo La
Tewa," Mr Maina said.
The last such inmates, convicted for participation in the 1982 attempted
coup, were executed at Kamiti on May 17, 1987.
The batch of 12 included soldiers Hezekiah Ochuka, Pancras Okumu, Onyango
Otieno alias 'Jaduong' and Raphael Okumu.
Others, including the disabled Raphael Ngumbao, Martin Shikuku, Alphonse
Jalango, and Raphael Ogola, Rashid Juma, were convicted of murder.
Presidential clemency
Since then, however, Kamiti has accumulated more convicts on the death
row. Several others like the long-serving Kisilu Munyao were released on
presidential clemency by President Kibaki in 2003. Francis Mbithi, who had
been on death row after conviction in 1980 for robbery with violence, was
another beneficiary.
His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He had been on death row
for 23 years.
But every day for the last 20 years Samson Ochanda Owuor has waited for
the hangman to snuff life out of his now frail aging body.
Owuor, 70, was charged with robbery with violence in Kisumu in 1988 and
subsequently sentenced to hang.
But as fate would have it, his appeal was delayed when his case file
number CR.C 900/87 mysteriously disappeared, making him ineligible for the
2003 clemency.
Benjamin Ndambu Suku and Joshua Otieno Bala convicted in 1990 and 1991
respectively for robbery with violence are among those waiting for a date
with the hangman. They were joined in the death row section in early March
this year by Richard Mwanzia, an individual with both sexual organs who
was accused of rape.
Unlike other convicts, death row convicts are not subject to manual labour
and consequently spend their days either watching TV (thanks to VP Moody
Awori's prison reforms), attending adult education classes taught by
fellow death row convicts or church within the prison.
Those awaiting execution wake up at 6.00am for a headcount before the
doors to the cells are opened for them between 6.30am and 7.00 am to take
bath and have breakfast.
The inmates then attend attend class, go for various games, or church.
They are then served lunch, comprising a bowl of soup and discoloured
ugali between 10.00am and 11.00am.
After lunch, the death row inmates are allowed to watch television,
although they mostly sit around unlike their counterparts in the Lang'ata
Women's Prison who engage in embroidery or cookery.
A long-serving warder at Kamiti says that death row inmates are the most
disciplined, and they quickly embrace religion.
(source: The Nation)
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