The death penalty has been an issue of debate for decades and it is of great relevance at present. Different reasons have emerged that make recourse to the death penalty appear necessary, such as, that it serves as a deterrent, it meets the need for retribution and that public opinion demands its imposition. Conversely, more convincing arguments have been raised for its abolition, amongst which is the argument that it is a violation of human rights. Africa is seen as one of the “death penalty regions” in the world, as most African states still retain the death penalty despite the growing international human rights standards and trends towards its abolition. Further, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights makes no mention of the death penalty. The death penalty in Africa is therefore an issue that one has to be particularly concerned about. During the 36th Ordinary Session (2004) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, for the first time, the death penalty was one of the issues discussed by the Commission. Commissioner Chirwa initiated debate about the abolition of the death penalty in Africa, urging the Commission to take a clear position on the subject. In view of this and the international human rights developments and trends on the death penalty, discourses on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa are much needed. Accordingly, this study examines the death penalty in Africa from a human rights perspective. It seeks to determine why African states retain the death penalty, the ways in which the current operation of the death penalty in African states conflicts with human rights, what causes obstructions to its abolition in Africa, and whether it is appropriate for African states to join the international trend for the abolition of the death penalty. The current status and operation of the death penalty in Africa is first examined. The historical background to the death penalty in Africa from a traditional and western perspective is also discussed. Subsequently, the main arguments advanced by Africans (including African leaders, writers, priests and government officials) for the retention of the death penalty in Africa are evaluated. The study goes further to examine the death penalty in African states in the light of the right to life, the prohibition of cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and fair trial rights at both the international and national levels. After examining the death penalty in African states, the study arrives at the conclusion that it is appropriate for African states to join the international trend for the abolition of the death penalty, considering that the death penalty in Africa conflicts with human rights, the justifications for its retention are fundamentally flawed, and that alternatives to the death penalty in Africa exist. A number of recommendations are then made, which are geared towards the abolition of the death penalty in Africa.