Defend the Defenders newsletter about African developments

October 2, 2017

One of my sources is the Defend the Defenders network run by the East & Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. I will continue to follow it for you, but those with special interest in Africa should subscribe themselves: Below the latest newsletter as an example:

Dear friends and colleagues,
This month, Kenyans will make history as they return to the polls to vote for their president after the Supreme Court annulled the 8 August elections. Never before on the African continent have the results of an election been overturned, with all parties accepting the decision. Nevertheless, tensions remain high and human rights defenders (HRDs) continue to face threats to their safety, our concerns were highlighted in an Item 4 statement during the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Ugandans are similarly faced with a decision that may define the future of their country, as the Parliament considers a constitutional amendment that would remove the presidential age limit. Civil society has expressed concern that a decision of such magnitude has not been subject of an inclusive and transparent process.
Instead, in the last two weeks, police raided ActionAid and the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, two NGOs that have spoken out against the amendment. A number of HRDs and journalists have been arrested, and protestors and members of the opposition have been prevented from exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
We also welcomed the UN HRC’s vote to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, as well as establish a team of experts to engage with the government of Burundi on improving the dire human rights situation in the country.
Yours in solidarity,
Hassan Shire
Executive Director
UN Human Rights Council
DefendDefenders attended the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council together with HRDs from Burundi and South Sudan. During the session, the delegation:
  • Delivered oral statements during the interactive dialogues with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the Commission on human rights in South Sudan, and the Independent Experts on Sudan and Somalia;
  • Drew attention to the precarious situation of HRDs ahead of Kenya’s 17 October presidential re-vote in an Item 4 statement;
  • Organised two side-events to discuss next steps for Burundi, and explore African and international solutions for the South Sudanese conflict;
  • Sent two open letters regarding the human rights situation in Burundi and Sudan.
Recommended reading
How the NSA built a secret surveillance network for Ethiopia
New leaked documents reveal how the United States has supported the creation of domestic surveillance networks across the Horn of Africa in the name of counterterrorism.
From non-interference to non-indifference: the African Union and the Responsibility to Protect
The International Refugee Rights Initiative explores how the principle of the responsibility to protect has taken root within the African Union.
Updates from the sub-region

  • On 25 September, police arrestedDiane Rwigara, a former women’s right activist and vocal critic of President Paul Kagame against whom she intended to stand in the 2017 elections until disqualified by the electoral board, for alleged offences against state security. In early September, she was also detained over accusation of tax evasion and forgery.
Somalia and Somaliland
  • On 16 September, police arrestedHorseed Media editor and owner of Saylactoday Mohamed Adan Dirir, as he was covering a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Hargeisa, Somaliland. According to court documents, he is accused of producing false news and instigating the public to disobey the law. The Somaliland-based Human Rights Centre reports that Dirir’s arrest is linked to articles in which he allegedly accused a group of private schools of mismanagement and misconduct.
  • On 7 September, Tundu Lisso, chairperson of the Tanganyika Law Society, was shot in the stomach, leg, and arm by unknown gunmen. As a Member of Parliament (MP), Lisso is also an outspoken critic of the government. He was previously arrested in July after calling President Magufuli a dictator, and later in August after making allegations over unpaid government debt to a Canadian company;
  • On 20 September National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition Onesmo Olengurumwa was interrogated by immigration official, who questioned his citizenship and required him to fill out a ten page form on his history and immigration status.
  • On 12 September, James Rukanpana, an HRD with the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), was shot in both legs by armed guards hired by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limitedduring a land protest in Western Uganda. TLC has been opposing the takeover of a number of crater lakes by the company, in a case that has resulted in the judicial harassment of at least four HRDs;
  • On 13 September, police officers assaulted two journalists and confiscated their equipment as they were covering a sensitisation campaign against the proposed amendment to remove the presidential age limit, organised by the Democratic Party;
  • On 20 September, police sealed off the offices of ActionAid Uganda preventing staff from leaving as they searched the premises, confiscating documents and electronic equipment. The offices of GLISS were similarly searched;
  • Also on 20 September, five journalists were arrested in Kampala as they were covering an event organised by youth activists to protests the removal of the presidential age limit;
  • On 21 September, police bannedprotests against the age limit amendment with the Inspector General of Police saying that demonstrators should use “indoor meetings” to express their opinions;
  • On 26 September, the Uganda Communications Commission banned live coverage of parliament after the debate on the age limit amendment descended into a physical fight between MPs;
  • On 27 September, police arrested the director and several staff members of Solidarity Uganda, a Lira-based NGO that teaches non-violent strategies and movement building.

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