The Death Penalty: An African Perspective

  • Harry L.K. Agbanu


Global debates about whether the death penalty should be abolished or not typically revolve around three main questions: (1) what are the legitimate purpose of punishment (the purposes argument), (2) whether any acts are so heinous that their perpetrators truly deserve to die
(the desert argument), and (3) whether the fact that a community continues to use capital punishment is generally expressive of virtuous, or vicious, character traits among-its citizenry (the character argument). This article contends that because the different concerns of these three arguments
are not always fully appreciated, abolitionists and retentionists often talk past one another. To illustrate this, we explore the implications of each type of argument in the context of indigenous African morality, showing how each argument takes on new meanings with different degrees of
explanatory force. While we do not propose a specific resolution to the global death .penalty debate, we do reach conclusions about how participants in this global conversation ought to proceed.