Round-up of the African Congress with Pete Ouko, former death penalty prisoner in Kenya

28 May 2018

During the African Congress, we were lucky enough to hear stories from some incredible people about their past on death row. Pete Ouko, from Kenya, was one of them. Wrongfully sentenced to death, he was eventually pardoned and released 18 years later. He is now a law graduate and devotes his energy to defending the rights of prisoners in Africa.

Pete made a speech at the official opening ceremony that was both heart-breaking and full of hope. During the Congress, he was generous enough to continue telling us about his experience behind the bars, giving us one more reason to keep on fighting against the death penalty. Today, he shares his insights about the Congress. Congress participants are already convinced of the importance of the fight against the death penalty. Why did you want to tell them your story? I am a victim of an injustice that got me sentenced to death row for offense crime I never committed. My main motivation for sharing my story is to enforce my belief that the death penalty should be abolished as it has seen many innocent people being sent to the gallows. Another reason would be that it has outlived its usefulness, if it had one in the first place. It is inhuman, degrading and abhorrent to take the life of another, for whatever reason. From your point of view, what were the highlights of the Congress? I loved the opening speeches from the Ministers of Justice present, the speech by the Director of ECPM, the song by the young people and the final concert by Kajeem. But above all, I loved all the sessions I attended as they were all moderated and hosted by very resourceful and knowledgeable people. I learnt a lot. What impact did the African Congress have on you? A profound impact to make the Abolition of the Death Penalty my main rallying call, and going forward until it is achieved. What is the next step towards abolition for you?  I am already talking about it in all forums and hope to see many of the countries which still retain the death penalty abolish it. I would also love to attend as many seminars as I can to learn about best practices and different approaches made by other towards the same goal, before we meet for the World Congress in Brussels. What role can young people play? They need to be informed about it so they can own the process and move it forward as a majority of victims of the death penalty are young people. And the media? The media need the right advocates to help them package and put the message for abolition across. I hardly see any Death Penalty Abolition Ambassadors and it is my view that ECPM and other players in this field need Ambassadors to keep the message going in between the big conferences. Together with this, the media need partnerships to enable them fight perceptions in the public and communities as that is where the main battle has to be won, in the hearts and minds of the people.