Parliamentarians from Francophone Africa meet in Kinshasa to discuss the abolition of the death penalty
The objective of this event was to allow parliamentarians from West and Central Africa to share their experience and discuss the future of the abolitionist movement in the region. It followed the regional seminar held in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) on 19 and 20 October 2016 by ECPM and the Fédération internationale des Actions des Chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (International Federation of Actions of Christians for the Abolition of Torture, FIACAT).
The opening of the seminar was marked by the speech of Mr. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, Minister of Justice of DRC, who explained the government’s position towards abolition of the death penalty: recalling the atrocities committed across the country, he declared the DRC would not overturn the de facto moratorium on executions applied since 2003, but would neither adopt a de jure moratorium or abolish altogether the death penalty in the coming years.
Far from being deterred, the Burkinabe, Chadian, Central-African, Congolese, Guinean, Malian, Nigerien and Togolese MPs present felt encouraged to share their opinions, suggestions and strategies to move together toward an abolitionist Francophone Africa. Members of PGA and of the Network of Congolese Parliamentarians Against the Death Penalty made efforts to reassure the reluctant or retentionist MPs vis-à-vis abolition. In this regard, Hon. Jean-Joël Koffi Kissi, Member of the Togolese National Assembly, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and PGA Member, stated: “the question is not whether or not to prosecute criminals, that is not what we are discussing today. It is about establishing whether imprisonment penalties would not be more efficient than resorting to executions.”
For his part, Hon. Sébastien Adambu Lomalisa, Member of the Senate of DRC, Chairman of the Politic, Administrative and Legal Committee and PGA Member, rebutted the argument for death penalty based on public opinion, telling his peers: “We must bring the population to understand, it is the role of parliamentarians to pave the way. If the United States of America had waited for public opinion to change, would slavery have been abolished?” Furthermore, Prof. Raphaël Nyabirungu Mwene Songa, Criminal Law Professor and counsel to the International Criminal Court, underlined that “combatting the death penalty means improving DRC’s image throughout the world and creating new cooperation opportunities”.
After the debates, the participants discussed and adopted an Action Plan (in French) and a Final Declaration (in French), calling on the parliamentarians of the whole region to mobilise their efforts against capital punishment.
The seminar was held on the day following the Burkina Faso’s National Assembly’s historic vote adopting a new Criminal Code abolishing the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Hon. Reine Benao Sakandé, Member of the National Assembly of Burkina Faso, Coordinator of the Network of Parliamentarians for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, Member of the ECOWAS Parliamentary Assembly, Chairwoman of the Gender, Promotion of Women and Social Protection Committee, and PGA Member, was applauded by her peers and stated during her intervention: “we must work hand in hand to get rid of the colonial remnant that is capital punishment, and develop regional norms to safeguard human rights in our region.”