Uganda’s leader to sign death warrants again after 19 years

January 18, 2018
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, center in military uniform, with senior government officers and prison wardens pose for a photograph during a graduation ceremony in the capital Kampala Thursday Jan. 18, 2018.Uganda's president says he will sign the death warrants of "a few" prisoners to create fear among criminals in the East African country. (AP Photo Stephen Wandera))

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s president said Thursday he will sign the first death warrants in nearly two decades to create fear among criminals in the East African country, vowing to “hang a few.”

President Yoweri Museveni said he had not ordered executions in 19 years but was changing his mind because people were taking advantage of the “leniency.”

“I am going to revise this and hang a few,” he said. “We must hang some of these people because if you see how they kill people, they deserve to be killed.”

He was speaking at a graduation ceremony for prison wardens in the capital, Kampala.

Museveni last signed death warrants in 1999, when 28 people were executed.

Uganda Prisons Service data says 278 prisoners were on death row as of December.

The executive director of the local Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Livingstone Ssewanyana, disagreed with Museveni’s approach, saying that “executing prisoners won’t end crime.”

He instead blamed a recent series of high-profile killings in Uganda, including the murders of 23 women in the city of Entebbe, on the country’s “failed” criminal justice system.

“The police are very weak with no capacity to investigate crimes extensively,” Ssewanyana said. “It is underfunded and the judiciary is also underfunded. As a result, you find serious failures in the systems.”

In a report last year, Amnesty International said sub-Saharan Africa had “stood out as a beacon of hope and positive progress on the abolition of the death penalty” in recent years, though it said two countries in 2016 had resumed executions: Botswana and Nigeria.

The human rights organization as of the end of 2016 listed several African nations that retained the death penalty including Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.