Kenya: Former prison beauty queen to hang for murder of boyfriend

KENYA – Ruth Wanjiku Kamande will have to pay for her crime of murdering her boyfriend with her life, a Kenyan court ruled Thursday.

Kamande, who in September 2015 left Kenyans speechless over how such a beauty could have the heart to stab her boyfriend 25 times with a kitchen knife, had been hoping for some leniency from Justice Jessie Lesiit following her mitigation.

At Lang’ata Women’s Prison, Kamande, 24, is said to have done everything possible to make many a judge believe in her penitence, from winning a beauty pageant for the inmates to converting to Islam. But judge Lesiit would have none of it.

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Giving her ruling on Thursday, Judge Lesiit said “young people should know it is not cool to kill your boyfriend or girlfriend, instead it is cool to walk away from such a relationship when it breaks down.”

In mitigation last week, Kamande told the court that she has reformed since she was remanded two years and nine months ago. She said she regretted the incident.

But on Thursday Judge Leesit said Kamande had not shown remorse and killed with a purpose of inflicting pain.

Her lawyer Joyner Okonjo said Kamande had become a devout Muslim and has been attending a course in theology for the past one year.

Okonjo added that Kamande engaged in various activities at the Lang’ata Women Prison, which led to her crowning as Miss Lang’ata beauty in 2016.

The lawyer argued that for one to get such a title factors such as discipline, cooperation with the authorities and commitment to reform are considered.

She also said that Kamande had been admitted at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) for a course in Information Technology, but her education was discontinued.

But State Counsel Evelyn Wanunga said Kamande was not penitent, and should therefore be handed the death sentence as a deterrence.

Justice Lesiit, who seemed to concur with the prosecution, also dismissed claims that Kamande acted in self defence.

She said the stab wounds were not consistent with her allegations that her former boyfriend had pinned her down as they fought, observing that the wounds were inflicted at intervals and not by a person in a lying position.

The night before the incident, the court heard that she found his old love letters and questioned Farid why he was still holding onto them.

He allegedly ignored her and went to sleep only for her to rekindle the conversation the following morning.

When neighbours tried to respond to his distress call, they found the door was locked.

With the window for leniency gone, Kamande will now look to appeal for a reprieve.

Although death sentences are frequently handed down by Kenyan courts, the last time a convict was hanged was July 1987, when Kenya Air Force senior private Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were hanged for the 1982 coup attempt.

In December last year, Kenya’s Supreme Court struck down the rule of mandatory death sentence, saying it was unconstitutional, opening room for courts handling capital offences to use judicial discretion when delivering judgements.

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