20 June 2022 :
A new study, commissioned by The Death Penalty Project, London, in partnership with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Nairobi, has revealed that far from being staunchly in support of retention of death penalty, the Kenyan public is open to abolition, and that the country’s opinion formers are overwhelmingly in favour of such change.
The research, led by Prof. Carolyn Hoyle at the University of Oxford, sought to better understand attitudes and openness to abolition of capital punishment in Kenya.
Through nuanced questioning of 1,672 people, the research revealed that only just over half of the public support retention, while almost all of the 42 opinion formers interviewed are strongly in support of abolition of the death penalty.
51% of the public initially supported the retention of the death penalty but only 32% were strongly in favour.
90% of opinion formers are in favour of abolishing the death penalty.
The research shows that when presented with more information on the application of the death penalty, including realistic case scenarios or mitigating circumstances surrounding the case, such as the age, background and mental health of the offender, public support for the punishment falls dramatically.
The findings revealed concerns among both the public and opinion formers around the possibility that innocent people could be sentenced to death in Kenya.
61% of the public thought that ‘many’ or ‘some’ innocent people have been sentenced to death in Kenya and these concerns reduced support for retention among the public to 28%.
Almost all (88%) of the opinion formers believe wrongful convictions occur fairly regularly.
The research also explored whether people would accept a government policy of abolition despite their initial position.
59% of the public, who were initially in favour of retention, said that they would accept a policy of abolition.
More than three quarters of opinion formers believed that the public would accept abolition of the death penalty, notwithstanding initial reservations, and nearly all would support an act of parliament to abolish the death penalty.
Kenya is among the minority of countries that continue to retain the death penalty in law, yet it has not carried out an execution since 1987.
In 2017, the country’s Supreme court declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional and since the introduction of discretionary sentencing, the number of death sentences imposed has reduced. However, to date, over 600 people remain on death row.