“Uganda could begin enforcing the death penalty again, President Yoweri Museveni has said, 13 years after the country’s last execution.
Mr Museveni said his “Christian background” had prevented him from going ahead with executions, but this “leniency” was encouraging criminals.
Human rights groups have warned against the move.
In Uganda, 28 offences merit the death penalty, the highest in east Africa. Some 278 people are on death row.
“I have not been assenting to hanging of convicts because of my Christian background but being lenient is causing people to think they can cause harm and get away with it,”President Yoweri Museveni wrote on Twitter.
He also said he would “hang a few” at a graduation ceremony for prison wardens in Kamapala on Thursday.
Rights groups were quick to criticise the president.
“Executing prisoners won’t end crime,” the executive director of Uganda’s Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Livingstone Ssewanyana, told the Washington Post.
“The police are very weak with no capacity to investigate crimes extensively. As a result, you find serious failures in the systems.”
In recent years crime has risen, with 20 women murdered in four months in the capital Kampala last year. Some critics say police put more effort into targeting President Museveni’s opponents than into catching criminals.
However, other observers suggested Mr Museveni may not be serious about restarting executions.
Nicholas Opiyo of rights organisation Chapter Four told Reuters that Mr Museveni’s tweet was “political talk” aimed at boosting his popularity.
The president, 73, angered some Ugandans earlier this year when he amended the country’s constitution so that he could run for re-election in 2021.
Originally, the constitution barred anyone over 75 from running for president. Mr Museveni has governed Uganda since 1986.
The death penalty in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has been moving away from the death penalty in recent years,Amnesty International reports.
In 2016, Benin and Guinea abolished the death penalty, though Guinea can still enforce it in the case of exceptional crimes.
The same year, President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted the death penalties of 2,747 people, Kenya’s entire death row population.
However Nigeria and Botswana both executed people in 2016, despite not having used the punishment since 2013. Nigeria also handed down 527 death sentences in 2016.”