Death penalty doesn’t render justice

Saturday November 16 2019


By Dr Josue Okoth

President Museveni while addressing the ghetto youth in Kampala recently, blamed Uganda courts for sparing those who kill others. He reportedly said “anybody who kills another will also be killed.” In this respect, he promised to “deal with courts to ensure that murderers are hanged”. On another occasion, while addressing justices attending the Fourth African Judicial Dialogue, the President said he still subscribes to “Moses law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

The President’s remarks come at a time of rising insecurity and violent crimes in the country. In a tweet last year, the President stated his stand that “I have not been assenting to hanging of convicts because of my Christian background, but being lenient is causing people to think they can cause harm and get away with it. I will revise my position.”

This view of the President may be similar to some of the early great theologians in Christianity. For instance, St Augustine of Hippo (354 -430 AD) in The City of God, Book 1, Ch. 21 states: “The agent who executes the killing does not commit homicide; he is an instrument as is the sword with which he cuts.
Therefore, it is no way contrary to the commandment that says: ‘Thou shall not kill’ to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representative of public authority to put criminals to death, according to the law, that is, the will of the most just reason.”

St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) reaffirms his position supporting the death penalty in his book Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, Ch.146. However, overtime, the teaching of the Catholic Church has changed on death penalty. The revised edition of Catholic catechism 2018 states that: “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the dignity of the person and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
The Holy See fully supports the efforts of United Nations to abolish the use of the death penalty worldwide. Pope Francis said death penalty is an offence “against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God’s plan for man and society” and “does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.”

Human life is sacred made by God alone and it remains a special relationship with Him. It is Him alone who is Lord of life from its beginning until its end. God made man in His own image (Gen 1:27). His Fifth Commandment flatly says: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). This Law has no conditions; it simply means don’t remove life and, therefore, no one has a right under any circumstances to remove it.
When Cain murdered his brother Abel due to anger and envy, God spoke to Cain, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Gen 4:10-11).

God never allowed revenge to kill Cain. When Cain said to the Lord, ‘…I will be restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me’, the Lord answered, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.’(Gen 4:12).
Dr Josue Okoth,