Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya

Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2012

Odera Oruka Seventeen Years On

Jacinta Mwende Maweu
Pages 97-108

A Critical Assessment of Odera Oruka’s Theory of Punishment

This paper is a critical examination of Odera Oruka’s theory of punishment in his Punishment and Terrorism in Africa. It argues that although Oruka clearly highlights the weaknesses of the Retributionist and Utilitarian accounts of punishment and therefore calls for the Reformist view of ‘treating both the criminal and society’, he is mistaken in calling for the abolition of punishment simply because it cannot reform the criminal. The paper contends that the reform of the criminal is only one major function of punishment and not the only one, and so we cannot call for its abolition on the basis of this single consideration. The paper further urges that Oruka’s theory of punishment is rather deterministic: according to him, the criminal commits the crime because of the criminal forces which he or she has very little control over, so that he or she cannot be held morally responsible for his or her actions.