In 1982 Mpagi Edward Edmary, a Ugandan taxi driver, was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of his neighbour. But not only was Edward an innocent man, there hadn’t even been a murder. Edward had been framed after a land dispute between families in the village got out of hand.
Witnesses were bribed to say they had seen him kill the man and dispose of the body. He spent the next 20 years in Kampala’s notorious Luzira prison and was only released when his family proved that the dead man had been hiding out in another part of the country.
As Edward says, “In Uganda, conditions for death row prisoners are cruel, degrading, and inhumane. We were always denied medicines. There were lice, flies, and other vermin in the prison, and this resulted in many illnesses – and many prisoners died from these illnesses.
In 1984 my brother developed malaria and stomach complications because of inadequate food and skin conditions. I pleaded with the prison authorities to give my brother medication and treatment.
However, they told me that we were brought to death row to face death, that it was a waste of taxpayer’s money to treat him. My brother died in 1985. This really scared me.
Life is terrible on death row in Uganda, Africa. No one was ever given any notice that they would be executed. Each time we were taken by complete surprise. We lived in complete fear of any unusual activity from the wardens.
During my stay in prison there were five rounds of executions. The last one was in 1999 in which the state executed 28 prisoners.
The coffins for the prisoners to be executed were made in the prison. During the three days before executions, we could all hear the making of the coffins. The black hoods and clothes for prisoners to be executed were made by other prisoners. We knew how many people were to be executed by counting the number of hoods being made.”