Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio signed a bill on Friday that abolished the death penalty, becoming the latest African state to ban capital punishment.
The move comes after lawmakers in the West African country voted to end capital punishment in July, replacing the punishment with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year prison sentence.
“As a nation, today we have exorcised the horrors of a cruel past,” Bio said in a statement, adding that capital punishment is “inhumane.”
“Today we affirm our belief in the sanctity of life,” he added.
Sierra Leone, which is still recovering after decades of civil war, has been frequently criticized by human rights groups for keeping capital punishment on the books.
The government announced that it would take steps to ban the death penalty to defend human rights in May, before the Sierra Leone parliament passed an abolition bill.
The last executions in Sierra Leone were carried out in 1998, when 24 servicemen were executed after an attempted coup the previous year.
Since then, death sentences have often been commuted.
A former British diamond-rich colony, the nation of 7.5 million people remains one of the poorest in the world.
Sierra Leone’s economy was devastated by a 1991-2002 civil war that claimed 120,000 lives, followed by an Ebola epidemic from 2014 to 2016.