Saturday 13 April 2024


In the early years of colonial rule, the indigenous people were tried in native courts which operated under the Indian Penal Code.

But on numerous occasions it appeared almost impossible to legally punish a native who had been found guilty.

For instance in 1902, a Luo man was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang by a native tribunal meeting at Kisumu under the supervision of a European officer.

It happened that Kisumu which by then was part of Uganda was transferred to East Africa  Protectorate (Kenya), just after the trial and before the man's execution.

This presented a great legal obstacle in executing the man, because, at the time of the trial the man was a Ugandan and the native  tribunal that tried him was recognised  in Uganda.

But now that Kisumu had been transferred from Uganda to East Africa Protectorate, the law considered him a citizen of the East Protectorate (Kenya) and a free man because  the native Court that had tried him was not recognised in the Protectorate.

"He could not be executed by the authorities of East Africa, for, according to the law of that country, he had not been condemned. Nor could he be executed by the authorities of Uganda under their law, for Kisumu had ceased to be Uganda territory," wrote Charles  Eliott who by then was the administrator for the East Africa Protectorate (Kenya).

At the same time the colonial authorities  believed that letting the man go scot-free would be the greatest form of injustice.

According to Eliot the man himself helped  the government out of this legal dilemma  when he tried to flee from jail and was consequently shot dead by a prison warder.

"It was the man himself who helped us out of the difficulty. In ignorance of his security he tried to escape, and was shot by a warder,"  wrote Elliott.

Most probably the man was shot dead by the colonialists who realising that their hands were tied used escape as a smoke screen to get rid of him.

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