Activists protest death penalty verdict for Ruth Kamande

Young offenders

The sentencing of 24-year-old Ruth Kamande to death has once again rekindled the debate on capital punishment.

On one hand, there are those who have called for the commuting of the sentence to life imprisonment, which allows for the rehabilitation of offender.

Others laud the sentence as appropriate given the nature of Kamande’s crime.

Kamande committed a grisly murder. Transcripts from the judgment hearing state that she stabbed her boyfriend Farid Mohamed 25 times, leading to his death.

She ignored his cries for help and deliberately blocked his exit from the house, even as neighbours gathered and urged her to stop and open the door.

“The accused inflicted each stab, not in a frenzy as she alleged in her defence, but deliberately and intermittently.

“Her action was calculated to inflict pain and cause death slowly but assuredly. That is clear proof of malice, of spite, callousness and hatred,” Justice Jessie Lessit said in her judgement.


She said that the nature of Kamande’s crime, and her perceived lack of remorse, contributed to her death sentencing.

But human rights group Amnesty International on Friday asked that Kamande’s death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.

AI Executive Director Irungu Houghton said in a statement that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime any better than other lawful punishments, and asked the court to call for Kamande’s rehabilitation instead.

Amnesty International is not alone in this position.

In 2007 the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNHCR) wrote a paper on the abolition of the death sentence, terming it “the ultimate violation of human rights”.

“It is a violation of the fundamental right to life, which the Government has pledged to protect under the Constitution and other international human rights instruments that it has ratified. Similarly, the death penalty amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” KNHCR stated.


The death penalty, the commission argued, is irreversible and disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged Kenyans who cannot afford good lawyers.

In addition, upholding it bucks a worldwide trend that has seen over two thirds of the countries in the world abolish the death penalty in favour of life imprisonment.

Prisoners on death row have the same quality of life as other prisoners and are able to take part in work and study programmes, the only difference being that they are not deployed for work outside the prison.


The mandatory death sentence was declared unconstitutional in the supreme court in December last year when two convicts on death row, Karioko Muruatetu and Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi argued that it impugned their right to life.

This means that judges still retain the discretion to hand down the death penalty, but that there is room to sentence convicts to a lesser punishment instead.

Crimes for which one can be sentenced to death include murder, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence and treason.

In light of the Supreme Court ruling, the government was ordered to review all current death sentence cases, meaning that convicts on death row will get another day in court.

The last execution was conducted in 1987 and Kenya currently has no active hangman.