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Sentenced to death by disease

Nairobi (Reuter) - An average of three prisoners die each day in Kenya's congested prisons, the Home Affairs Minister, Francis Lotodo, has told parliament. The main causes of death were Aids-related ailments, malaria, meningitis and diarrhoeal diseases.

From January to the end of September, said Mr Lotodo, 819 inmates died. Of these, 291 were on remand. He added that lack of money meant his ministry could do nothing to improve prison conditions.

A High Court judge has said that "jailing anyone is like sending them to a death chamber", and the Attorney-General, Amos Wako, last week urged magistrates and judges not to send law-breakers to jail for petty offences. Last week President Daniel arap Moi set free 10,898 prisoners, mostly petty offenders, who had less than six months of their sentences left to serve.

Government figures show that in July, Kenya's 78 prisons, with a designed capacity of 21,000, held 37,066 inmates.