In the wake of a continental movement against capital punishment, Sierra Leone became the 23rd African country to abolish the death penalty, thus getting rid of a cruel relic of its colonial past.
“Here’s a small country in West Africa that had a brutal civil war 20 years ago and they’ve managed to abolish the death penalty,” says Sabrina Mahtani, co-founder and former executive director of AdvocAid. “They would actually be an example for the United States rather than it always being the other way around.”
The country has replaced the death sentence with a maximum life sentence, including crimes such as murder and treason. Almost half of the 54 independent African countries have abolished capital punishment, as well as a vast majority of the 193 United Nations’ members. Civil society organizations and lawyers alike welcome Sierra Leone’s decision as the death penalty is perceived as a part of the continent’s oppressive colonial history.