Gambian President Adama Barrow announced a moratorium on the death penalty as the West African country rebuilds following the removal last year of longtime authoritarian ruler Yahya Jammeh.
Capital punishment is on the decline across Africa, where governments executed 22 people in 2016 compared to 43 the previous year, according to Amnesty International.
“I use this opportunity to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in The Gambia, as a first step towards abolition,” Barrow said in a speech to mark the 53rd anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain.
Jammeh, who fled Gambia a year ago after losing a re-election bid, drew international criticism in 2012 when his government executed nine prisoners by firing squad.
Since taking office a year ago, Barrow has tried to repair damage done to Gambia’s reputation by Jammeh’s 23-year rule, marked by human rights abuses and spats with foreign governments.
Earlier this month, Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth, which Jammeh withdrew from in 2013, calling it a “neo-colonial institution”.