Abolishing the death penalty is good politics

The district of Gicumbi  has a fun mix of river revivalist Christians, brazen moonshine smugglers and their friends in law enforcement as well as the ongoing case of former Executive Secretary, Mr. Sinese Museveni [no relation to the President of Uganda].  The only thing most people know about Gicumbi is that ‘it is somewhere in the North’, so the liveliness comes as a surprise. Last we heard Mr. Museveni, having been physically tossed off the premises of his former office by security guards acting on no one’s orders, was considering suing the District for unfair dismissal.
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

The district of Gicumbi  has a fun mix of river revivalist Christians, brazen moonshine smugglers and their friends in law enforcement as well as the ongoing case of former Executive Secretary, Mr. Sinese Museveni [no relation to the President of Uganda].

The only thing most people know about Gicumbi is that ‘it is somewhere in the North’, so the liveliness comes as a surprise. Last we heard Mr. Museveni, having been physically tossed off the premises of his former office by security guards acting on no one’s orders, was considering suing the District for unfair dismissal.

The district of Gicumbi has not taken this lying down and in turn decided last Friday to sue Mr. Museveni for ‘financial mismanagement’. If no settlement is arrived at, it looks like both parties will be engaged in two-front war against each other for some time.

This is great material for all us armchair observers who will enjoy the high drama but it will also likely distract the attention and energies of the District from its much larger issues. Like fundamentalist Christians and booze smugglers.

The case of former Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Rutsiro District, Jean Ndimubahire and Odette Mukantabana, is no less interesting.

It is alleged that the two district supremos audaciously tried to frame a police officer of raping the Vice-Mayor’s housemaid in order to bury the officer’s findings on a corruption case that they were implicated in.

The police officer was later exonerated of the charge through DNA tests. It was then the turn of the Mayor and his Vice to face the charge of fabricating rape charges against the officer, a charge they beat because the Prosecution could not supply sufficient proof.

All this time and effort to show that a policeman did not rape the Vice-Mayor’s maid and the local leaders never falsely accused him of such. I’m sure there must be a cheaper and faster way to come to this same conclusion. 

On the upside, all these court cases reflect a confidence in the integrity of our judicial system despite the low scores that the Ombudsman’s reports keep giving it. “I’ll see you in court” seems to be on the rise as a method of dispute resolution.

Last week, Death Penalty Abolitionists held their conference in Kigali in homage to Rwanda’s decision to scrap the death penalty in 2007.

The debate on the death penalty is a long and contentious one but in summary studies have shown that it is not much of a deterrent to crime and executing a person is no way to rehabilitate an offender.

It is on the issue of retribution that things get interesting. Some argue that some crimes are so heinous that the death penalty is the only way for society to punish them.

 In Rwanda, we need not look any further than the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi where killers went even beyond killing to inflict painful, cruel and diabolical deaths on their victims.

It was not enough to just kill. Many of you will agree that a firing squad might be too good for some of these people. On the other hand, some will argue that the state has to exercise a civilising influence on its people and therefore cannot sink to the same barbaric level as its worst offenders. This is also a fair point.

My question is why we did not hear any of these arguments before the law abolishing the death penalty was enacted. Were our legislators acting on any firm principles on law enforcement or simply being shrewd politicians? Or were the media not keeping us abreast with the developments?

 Without a death penalty, indicted Rwandans abroad can be extradited by countries that don’t have the death penalty themselves and it makes Rwanda look liberal and progressive.

The abolishing of the death penalty may have been based on good politics. In the end it seems this was not necessarily a bad thing.

Ends

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