Kenya: Former Death Row Prisoner Graduates from University of London

William Okumu is one of many detainees or former detainees who graduated from a ceremony held last Thursday at the Kamiti High Security Prison in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

The former death row in Kenya told the BBC of his joy at having a law degree from the University of London.

“No English words have been coined to explain how I feel,” the former prisoner on Focus on Africa told the BBC adding that he believes “the whole world now knows that something good can get out of the trash.

Mr. Okumu, in his thirties, was released from prison last May. He said the law degree had changed his life.

He was able to use the legal skills he acquired during his studies as a prisoner to defend himself and others.

He said he was motivated by the fact that he realized that his sentence was due to his lack of understanding of the law because he had not been represented by a lawyer during his first trial.


The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the death penalty was “incompatible” with Kenya’s Constitution.

Mr. Okumu, who was in prison for robbery with violence and receiving stolen property, filed an appeal. He defended himself alone in court, arguing that his initial sentence had been too severe.

A judge accepted his plea and commuted his sentence to a 10-year sentence, which he had already served.

He won this legal battle thanks to the support of the African Prisons Project (APP), a charitable organization that operates in more than 15 countries of the continent and helps inmates to access justice.

According to the World Prison Brief online database, there are more than 50,000 inmates in Kenyan prisons, the majority of whom are juvenile offenders living in overcrowded cells.

Poverty and the low level of education of prisoners often mean that many of them do not have access to legal representation.


Written by How Africa

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