Abolition of the death penalty in Africa is not a dream, a utopia or a pipe dream. On the contrary, it is a reality which is taking shape more clearly every day. New initiatives and trends are appearing on the African continent. Since the last World Congress in Oslo in 2016, Congo and Guinea have abolished capital punishment, Kenya has commuted more than 2,740 death sentences (including 92 for women) and abolished the compulsory death penalty, Benin has commuted the country’s last 14 death row prisoners completing an abolition process begun in 2012, Burkina Faso has launched a process to formalise abolition in the Constitution, Gambia and Zimbabwe have announced that they would like to abolish the death penalty and have officially decreed a moratorium on executions, and the 2016 UN General Assembly vote on a moratorium resolution resulted in new support again with votes in favour by Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland.
The African Regional Congress aims to be a catalyst in this regard. We would like to recall the commitments made by African States and Governments in order to move even further towards definitive abolition – something which would enable us to say categorically one day: this is a continent completely free of the death penalty. It’s a question of belief now. There is an African proverb which says:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”…against the death penalty!
The goals of the African Congress
- Monitor the political commitments made at the Oslo Congress and encourage even more commitment from Africa’s political leaders: the presence of senior figures today, and many others who are not here but who have expressed their enthusiasm about the Congress, are the best examples of this.
- Identify the region’s main challenges and develop specific arguments, particularly with regard to making the leap from a moratorium (some of which have been in place for more than 20 years) to abolition in law, an issue so relevant in Africa. Nothing should prevent governments from abolishing the death penalty today, especially not public opinion where, according to several recent surveys (particularly in Kenya), support for the death penalty as a criminal sentence is falling.
- Encourage dialogue, joint action and the emergence of initiatives by actors themselves. This lies at the heart of our day-to-day work and we welcome all those who would like to join us and work with us on joint projects;
- Support international instruments: the UNGA moratorium resolution and the Additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty.
- Prepare the next World Day on 10 October 2018 focusing on the conditions of detention of death row prisoners: this will actually be the theme of the plenary session on our 2nd day of debates, tomorrow morning.
Shining a light on the voices of abolition is also an important task for the Congress! A number of witnesses of the death penalty are here today: Suzane Kigula from Uganda, Rafiou Adjama from Benin, Peter Ouko from Kenya, Arthur Judah Angel from Nigeria and Ndume Olatushani from the United States. They shall be voices who shine through the darkness and the inspiration for our work.
Others voices can be heard too: those of the artists who help the voice of abolition resonate beyond academic and activist chambers. At this point, I would like to acknowledge the artistic support and activism of Kajeem, a very popular singer from Côte d’Ivoire, and Beejoe, a slammer, poet and part of the group Au nom du slam.
The Congress was organised by ECPM with the support of :
The sponsors of the Regional Congress: Norway, Belgium and the European Union
Our other partners: France, the IOF, the Institut français, the Swiss Embassy and the Naumann Foundation.