Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

Four women human rights defenders with a mission

March 25, 2020

The Bandera County Courrier of 7 March 2020 referred to the following four women human rights defenders from four non-European countries who should serve as examples for the many who are tirelessly fighting for their rights.

Mexico: Norma Librada Ledezma

Norma Librada Ledezmas 15 – year-old daughter Paloma disappeared on2  March 2002 in Chihuahua, Mexico. 27 For days, the mother searched desperately for her daughter . The police did not give her any support. At the 29. March 2002 Paloma’s body was found. Ledezma is convinced that if the police had investigated earlier and more thoroughly, their daughter could have been saved. That day, the Mexican founded the organization “Justicia para nuestras hijas”, which means: justice for our daughters. This provides legal advice and support in cases of feminicide (murder of women). The same applies to human trafficking and kidnapping. Ledezma wants justice for the victims and the families affected. The Mexican has already supported more than 200 investigations into cases of feminicide and kidnapping. The death of her daughter Paloma is not an isolated case in Mexico. According to UN Women, around ten women are killed in Mexico every day. Ledezma has been able to improve the investigation of feminicides in the country with her work. The Mexican woman has also set up a public prosecutor’s office in Chihuahua that specializes in crimes against women as victims. For her commitment, Ledezma has been nominated for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award, an award for people and organizations who are committed to protecting human rights. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/05/daughters-murder-motivated-norma-ledezma-to-hunt-for-mexicos-disappeared/]

Norma Librada Ledezma
Norma Librada Ledezma Photo: Martin Ennals Foundation

India: Malti Tudu

Malti Tudu has a mission: she wants to end child marriage in her homeland, the state of Bihar, India. In the tribe the number of child marriages is particularly high. 74 percent of women get married under 18 year  For the young activist, one thing is certain: children should not be forced to marry. According to Unicef, child marriage violates the rights of girls and boys, with girls being affected five times more often. The married girls have to drop out of school. Teenage mothers also die more often than mature women from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Tudu has been fighting child marriage in Bihar for more than two years. The activist has partnered with other women. Together they educate the residents in the surrounding villages and try to prevent as many child marriages as possible. The women also get a lot of headwind in their actions. But Tudu remains persistent – with success. She has already saved several girls from getting married. In the meantime, she has become a role model for many young women in India. In recent years, more and more women have come together to fight child marriage in India. And there is progress: In the past ten years, the proportion of child marriages in India has gone from 50 percent to 27 percent.

Kenya: Christine Ghati Alfons

Christine Ghati Alfons, a young Kenyan, is fighting for the circumcision of girls to stop. That is not easy. Many in their homeland are still convinced that circumcised women have better chances of marriage and are better integrated into the community. Officially, genital mutilation has been official in Kenya since 2011 forbidden. Nevertheless, according to the United Nations, one in five women is still between 15 and 49 years in Kenya – the mutilation happens in private clinics or at home.

Christine Ghati Alfons.
Christine Ghati Alfons. Photo: private

Had her father not stood up for her then, Alfons would have been circumcised. His involvement broke a taboo in the community – and had consequences. He was killed because he wanted to protect his eight-year-old daughter. Alfons didn’t know anything about her father’s courage for a long time. Because all of her friends were circumcised, she wanted that too. The vehemence with which her mother forbade her surprised her. When they talked about the risk of contracting HIV during circumcision at school, Alfons decided against it. Only then did she learn from the mother why her father died. “I want to make my father proud,” says Alfons today. She is committed to girls who have no one to stand up for them. The 27 year-old founded the organization “Safe Engage Foundation ”with which she goes to the communities to talk to children, parents and teachers, to convince them of the cruelty. When genital mutilation occurs, the clitoris and labia become partially or completely away. In particularly severe cases, the entire external genitalia is cut off and sewn back up except for a hole the size of a matchstick. The circumcised women torture themselves throughout their lives with physical and psychological pain. Not only in Africa, but also in Asia and the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia: Manal al Sharif

Manal al Sharif becomes famous in Saudi Arabia in 2011 with a shaky cell phone video that she films in an apparently banal activity: she is behind the wheel of a car. At the time, the autocratic monarchy was the last country in the world where women were prohibited from driving a car.

Manal al Sharif.
Manal al Sharif. Photo: Andreas Gebert / dpa

The eight-minute recording shows Sharif, an IT consultant, driving through the streets of the Saudi city of Khobar. She speaks to her friend and co-activist Wajeha al Huwaider, says things like: “We want change in our country” and: “A woman deserves the same rights as every man.” And she is optimistic. “Things will change – God willing.” A lot has happened since the video went viral. Initially, the Sharif admission jailed for eleven days. The repressive regime accuses her of “inciting public opinion against the state”. When she is released, she leaves the country because of death threats. But Sharif’s video fired the Saudi “Women2Drive” movement. And even after her emigration, the activist remains part of the movement, campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. 2018 the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – de facto the most powerful man in the country – allows women to drive. Nevertheless, he continues to take decisive action against critics of the Kingdom. According to Amnesty, some women’s rights activists, such as Loujain al Hathloul, have been detained for several years, relatives report torture. Sharif now lives in Sydney, has written a book about her experiences and is committed to Women in their country of origin…Manal al Sharif is now considered one of the most important women rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

These four women have a mission

Kenya’s Human Rights Defender of 2019 is Wilfred Olal of the Social Justice Working Group

December 13, 2019

The Defenders’ Coalition and HRD Working Group in Kenya announced the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019. The awards are a local initiative to honour, promote and protect the work of HRDs in the Kenya.

Wilfred Olal and the Social Justice Working Group are the winners of the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2019. Wilfred is the coordinator of the Dandora Community Justice Centre and Convener of the Social Justice Centres Working Group. He began his work in human rights in 2005 when he joined The Bunge la Mwananchi social movement. He started as a member then rose to the position of national coordinator. The movement is an advocacy for the expansion of civic space and a campaign on the right to protest against corruption and impunity. In 2014, Wilfred and other HRDs decided to set up social justice centres to advocate for social justice and human rights in informal settlements of Nairobi. He started the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) in Mathare, then later Dandora. SJCWG advocates and fights for the promotion of human rights in all spheres through documentation, monitoring, reporting of cases of human rights violations and holding community dialogues within their areas of advocacy. Today, SJCWG is a consortium of 28 social justice centers mainly based in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa’s informal settlements.

Benazir Mohammed and the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya won Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year while Denis Nzioka, Peninah Mwangi and the late Onyango Oloo won the Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement Award. The Human Rights Defenders Awards ceremony was hosted by the French Embassy in Nairobi, with the support from the Belgian, Dutch, German and Swedish Embassies and Haki Africa – a national human rights NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.

https://www.peacebrigades.org/en/news/human-rights-defenders-awards-kenya

COP25: climate defenders also needed to be shielded

November 28, 2019

Tomorrow, 29 November, 2019, young people will gather at locations around the world for a Fridays for Future Global Climate Strike. On 2 December, United Nations delegates, world leaders, business executives, and activists will meet at the 25th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid to discuss ways to protect the environment. Participants in these events should also discuss ways to protect the protectors: the individuals and groups targeted around the world for their efforts on behalf of the planet.

Kenya: human rights defenders active in outreach during October 2019

November 2, 2019

The EU lists 3 finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

October 9, 2019

Following a joint vote by MEPs in the Foreign Affairs and Development committees of the European Parliament on Tuesday, the finalists for the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the final laureate on Thursday 24 October. The prize itself will be awarded in a ceremony in Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg on 18 December.

For more on the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and two other awards in the name of Sakharove, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sakharov-prize-for-freedom-of-thought

For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/27/ukrainian-filmmaker-sentsov-wins-eus-sakharov-prize-for-human-rights/

Several people who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity expressed surprise that Navalny had not been shortlisted.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191008IPR63719/sakharov-prize-2019-meps-choose-the-finalists

https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-activist-navalny-not-on-sakharov-prize-shortlist/30206166.html

Interview with Kenyan human rights defender Okiya Omtatah

September 3, 2019

The Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation of 1 September 2019 carries a long profile of the human rights defender Okiya Omtatah. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/human-rights-defenders-in-kenya-honored-with-national-awards/

Okiya Omtatah

Activist Okiya Omtatah at Milimani Law Courts on September 14, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

1. The many petitions you have presented in court on behalf of Kenyans and the fact that you have succeeded in many of them points to a void in our public life as ordinary citizens created by the government through its many agencies. Sir, who is sleeping on the job that has prompted you to step in? How can we hold these public servants or institutions responsible as taxpayers for sustainable quality service delivery? Komen Moris, Eldoret

My activism is anchored on the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. My overriding objective is to the immense power of the Constitution to have the Judiciary entrench constitutionalism and the rule of law in the conduct of public affairs.

Hence, all the petitions I have filed concern public law, and they fall in three broad categories: motions challenging decisions of law-making institutions where I contest the constitutionality of statutes by Parliament or by county assemblies, and both the constitutionality and legality of subsidiary legislation; motions contesting the constitutional and legal validity of policy decisions and other administrative actions of the executive at both national and county levels, and motions seeking to protect public property from thieving public officials and private individuals.

From my experience, the struggle is against contemptuous disregard of the constitutionally prescribed limits and powers of government, and affirmation that Kenyans are not subjects but sovereign citizens with their rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. From the above, it follows that the solution to our problems is to uphold the Constitution. However, it is clear our political leadership has failed in its duty to whip us as a nation into fully implementing the Constitution so as to realise its great promise.

2. Not long ago you called on Kenyans to contribute towards instituting a suit against all the MPs over house allowances they had awarded themselves. How did this initiative go and how much were you able to raise? Githuku Mungai

The initiative was not for instituting the case but to pay for the costs of serving the petition on the MPs through full page adverts published in the Daily Nation and Standard newspapers as ordered by the High Court. I required at least a million shillings but only raised some Sh130,000.

3. Over the course of your public life, you have largely been plastered with two labels: a defender of public interest by many and a rebel to a few. This can be attributed to the many cases you have argued out in the corridors of justice, among them bank capping rates, judges retirement age, most recently the CBA-NIC tax waiver. These cases largely touch on the crucial interests of the ordinary citizen. I can’t help but ask, what is the philosophy behind what you do? Do you feel intimidated or shaken by the weight of cases you take on considering the fact that in many cases you take them on your own? Kagwera Raphael, Kisii

The philosophy behind what I do is the Gospel of Christ, who preached about God’s love and divine mercy, and continues to reveal that the Kingdom of God is among us and therefore we must do right. At creation time, God gave Adam and Eve the power over all that he had created, but He did not give them the power over themselves; He gave them the law.

And when they broke that law they lost the Garden of Eden. Hence, the rule of men is doomed since it is anathema to the will of God. Only the rule of law works. Hence, humanity cannot rule itself and prosper except by the laws anchored on promoting the rights and fundamental freedoms of all people – and that includes obeying the Constitution of Kenya, which largely mirrors the Gospel of Christ. I don’t feel threatened or intimidated by the cases I take on since I take them up as part of my apostolate. And for as long as God wants to use me to call upon all Kenyans to obey the law, I will be available to do so.

4. Having had a peaceful, respectful, issue-based and effective campaign for the Busia senatorial race during the 2017 elections, one which didn’t turn out as most of us had expected, what is your objective opinion on Kenyan politics and campaigns? Kagwera Raphael, Kisii

My Busia senatorial race was a very rewarding experience for me. Though I vied on a Ford-Kenya ticket in an ODM stronghold and, literally, I had no money to match what the incumbent unleashed, I chose the route of civic and political education to agitate for resource-based leadership and it worked very well. It was a neck and neck race where I got more than 100,000 votes, and the difference between me and the Senator wasn’t much. But even though we can’t cap the amounts of money candidates spend on campaigns, the amounts and their sources must be disclosed to law enforcement. That way, it will at least reduce the distortion illicit money has on the democratic process, especially on poverty-stricken populations scavenging for basics. We must also eradicate mass poverty at the grassroots.

5. Your nature of work in the areas of human rights demands that you really need a good and reliable sponsorship so to speak, or stable source of income from where you can get resources to mount the kind of legal challenges you undertake. What is the source of your income? What is your reaction to allegations that you are often paid to institute the cases you do? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

First of all I don’t need a lot of money because I don’t hire lawyers to research, draft and prosecute my cases. I do so myself. Second, I lead a very simple lifestyle which is basically a source of income through the savings I make. I have seen people who earn much more than I do lead very miserable lives due to reckless lifestyles. As for allegations, they are just that. It is human nature to speculate where you have no facts. And it is written in the Holy Book that John the Baptist ate not and he was called a madman; Christ ate and drunk and He was called a glutton.

6. Our history is full of examples of good human rights activists including yourself, Kepta Ombati, Cyprian Nyamwamu, Boniface Mwangi, among others who tried to unsuccessfully run for political office. No doubt, political office is an expansion of activism and movement work. What should good activists do to win elections and continue their good work as politicians? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

They should not give up and I don’t think they have. The society is changing and, soon, we will have issue-based politics and one’s ethnicity or capacity to give handouts will not be trump cards at elections. While still at it, I point out that Prof Kivutha Kibwana, the Makueni Governor who has performed exceptionally well, was and is an activist who was elected into office and has delivered on his convictions.

7. There is a popular joke in Kenya about the Judiciary: ‘Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?’ Former Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga began ambitious efforts to transform Kenya’s courts and earn back the people’s trust. What is your assessment of the transformation at the Judiciary given that you frequently interact with them? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

The joke is just a joke. Whereas one or two judges may not be up to scratch, most judges and other judicial officers are very hard working individuals who deliver for Kenyans in very difficult situations. The Kenyan Judiciary is the only arm of government that retains and espouses Kenya’s republican character. We cannot compare the Judiciary to the Executive and the Legislature, at both national and county levels, which are totally captive to ethnicity and corruption

8. Due to the nature of your work, sometimes you challenge decisions of the powerful and mighty. Don’t you ever fear for your life when making such challenges? Have you ever received threats to have you drop the matter you are pursuing? Emmanuel Lesikito

Though I take precaution, I know that there are no human beings who are mighty and powerful. Only God is mighty and powerful. So I have no fear of any man and their threats, since God is my shield. No man can destroy my soul.

9. Of all the advocacy and litigation cases that you have undertaken in the interest of the public good, explain the one case that posed the greatest challenge and possibly a danger to your life. Nyongesa Chris Makhanu, Nairobi

A 2012 petition where I challenged the flawed procurement of the BVR kits which failed to work on Election Day. I was offered a bribe of Sh9 million to drop the case but I refused. I then applied to court for police protection but Justice Majanja dismissed my application. Two days later I was attacked by two men who hit my head with metal bars and left me for dead. As they were clobbering me, I could hear them say something to the effect that “Ulikataa pesa sasa utakufa na kesi yako pia itakufa” (You refused our offer; we are going to kill you and your case is going to collapse). But God saved me.

10. Do you really always read Kenyan’s mood before you move to court? I am referring to the case on the new currency, which by and large has been welcomed by a majority of Kenyans. Bernard Nyang’ondi, Mombasa

No, I am driven by fidelity to the law and the public interest.

11. Thank you for fighting for the common person. My question is: Fresh job seekers are required to produce a Certificate of Good Conduct and clearance certificate from Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, among others. These requirements make me wonder, do jobseekers have to pay for not committing crime? Do they have to pay for not being corrupt? Why have you never gone to court to challenge these primitive requirements? Evans Muteti, Mombasa

Justice Odunga declared those requirements to be unconstitutional in the case that was filed by Justice GBM Kariuki. I also filed another case on the same — but it is pending at the High Court — to allow the Supreme Court to determine whether it will allow the High Court to proceed or it will hear an advisory reference on the same issue that was filed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

12 Sir, you are known to be one of the most relentless and leading human rights defenders in Kenya. You are no guest in our courts and all these court cases require resources. What motivates you? Geoffrey Oyoo, Embakasi East

The Holy Scripture, especially the teachings on the salt and light of the world; the Good Samaritan, and the call to be witnesses of Christ.

13. Recently, a young woman died at KNH after she developed maternal complications due to negligence by staff on duty. Of course many other preventable deaths occur in public hospitals due to negligence. Don’t you think it is more worthwhile to fight for the rights of such helpless victims as opposed to, say, pursuing elitist court cases like the one on new currency notes? Stephen Kathurima, Nairobi

There are no elites under the law. All are equal. Secondly, I believe in draining the swamp not waiting to kill every snake and mosquito that escapes from the swamp. The mess in our hospitals and other institutions is a rule of law problem. Let’s drain the swamp by implementing the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/One-on-one-with-activist-Okiya-Omtatah/1056-5256164-l8pfwyz/index.html

 

Award for human rights defenders by PBI UK to Kenyan and Colombian defenders

June 23, 2019

Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, created in 2018 by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.

These awards are in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. They are presented annually to defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/henry-brooke-awards-for-human-rights-defenders

Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.

Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander. Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.

PBI provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.

 

 

Two South Sudanese activists who had disappeared two years ago now presumed dead

May 30, 2019

It’s time for Kenya, South Sudan to account for the enforced disappearance of Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idri

As news of the death of Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Ezboni Idri circulated recently, I felt extremely saddened.. The enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of two outspoken critics of the South Sudanese government, by South Sudanese security services allegedly with the acquiescence of Kenyan authorities, and both states’ continuous denial of responsibilities, signals a worrying trend of disrespect for human life and insecurity for those who dare to speak up and challenge power.

Samuel Dong Luak was a prominent human rights lawyer, Secretary General of the South Sudan Law Society for over ten years, as well as a member of the South Sudan Constitutional Review Commission.

Aggrey Ezboni Idri was an opposition leader, and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In 2013, after receiving death threats for providing legal assistance to the former Secretary General of South Sudan’s governing party, Pagan Amum, who had been accused of “treason” by President Salva Kiir, Dong fled South Sudan and sought refuge in Kenya, where he was granted refugee status. The same year, Aggrey also relocated to Kenya after South Sudan descended into conflict.

The deceased lived with their families in the capital, Nairobi, until they were disappeared on 23 and 24 January 2017, respectively. Amnesty International, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and other human rights groups called on the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the two men, suspected to be held by Kenyan authorities before deportation. The families of the disappeared also mobilised; petitioning Kenya’s High Court to produce the two men in court, but the petition was dismissed as Kenya denied having them in its custody. The family later asked the police to conduct a thorough investigation, but a final judgment in January 2019 confirmed the dismissal of their petition and ended judicial oversight into police action with regard to the case. Yet, the Court had noted that the police investigation fell short of seeking information from South Sudanese authorities and potential key witnesses.

The fate of Dong and Aggrey remained unknown until April 30,2019, when the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan circulated a report pointing to the likelihood of their death. The report states that “the Panel has corroborated evidence strongly suggesting” that Dong and Aggrey were kidnapped in Kenya by an arm of South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS), transferred to Juba, and executed in a NSS detention and training facility in Luri, on January 30, 2017.

In a report published in April 2018, DefendDefenders reported on the role of the NSS in limiting free expression and committing violations against human rights defenders (HRDs) in South Sudan. This case further highlights the unchecked power and impunity enjoyed by South Sudanese security services, which jeopardises possibilities for peace in the context of the revitalised peace agreement signed in September 2018. South Sudan’s conduct blatantly violates human rights standards, including the Declaration on the Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearances. Moreover, South Sudan continues to retain laws that are inimical to their regional and international human rights obligation. This results in shrinking civic space and democratic practice and killing or exiling of journalists and HRDs.

The alleged acquiescence or cooperation of the government of Kenya violates article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits returning people to places where they risk being tortured or ill-treated. Kenya ratified it. Dong’s confirmed status as a refugee also commits Kenya to the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Worryingly, this does not seem to be an isolated case.

……..
Against these worrying trends, I add my voice to that of other human rights organisations in calling on South Sudanese and Kenyan authorities to establish swift, impartial, independent, transparent and thorough investigations into Dong and Aggrey’s case. Both Kenya and South Sudan are State parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and must take all necessary measures to uphold their obligations under the African Charter and other international instruments. South Sudanese authorities must allow the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan and other monitors to access the site where the killing allegedly took place and all relevant witnesses and information. It is necessary to investigate these events fully, including the chain of command that led from Dong and Aggrey’s disappearance in Nairobi to their alleged execution. Those responsible, irrespective of their rank or standing, need to be held accountable, and the families of the victims must have access to adequate remedies for the losses they suffered.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international organs should collectively and strongly ensure that justice and accountability is served in this case. They must demand that Kenya and South Sudan end all enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Denials, impunity, and attempts at diffusing responsibility cannot stand in front of such serious allegations. More than two years after their disappearance, justice and accountability are due to the families and the communities Dong and Aggrey were forced to leave behind.

COMMENT: Disappearance and extrajudicial killing

 

Debate in Kenya: are human rights defenders always credible?

May 17, 2019

In Kenya (and other countries) there have been efforts in the media to cast doubt on credibility of human rights defenders, sometimes implying that they are just ‘guns for hire’, seek advantages for themselves or are bought to demonstrate. On 15 May2019  the Star in Kenya run an article on the topic:

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution  Image: MAURICE ALAL

…However, sector players told the Star that while there are a few elements doing activism with ulterior motives and pursuing self-gratification, the movement in the country is sound, focused, selfless and professional. Popular activist Boniface Mwangi told the Star that “Kenyans suffer from Stockholm syndrome, falling in love with their oppressors and attacking those that fight for them”. “I find the notion of celebrity activism, mostly thrown at me, very offensive. I’m a pretty young person who is a photojournalist. I have been shot at, beaten, tortured and harassed many times while doing activism for causes that I don’t even benefit from,” he said on phone. He added, “In my latest arrest, the National Intelligence Service tracked me using my phone. That means they have all the information about me, including that of my alleged sponsors. They could have unleashed all this. All serious people who caused impact through their activism like Martin Luther King and Wangari Maathai were denigrated but praised later.”

Ndung’u Wainaina, a veteran human rights and governance activist, told the Star that rights activism in the country in the modern times is largely not based on foundational philosophy as was the case in the 80s and 90s. “It is true there are briefcase entities and individuals in the human rights defence world whose actions are not based on any value system or persuasion. They are out for self-gain,” Wainaina said. “There is a need for strong visionaries grounded on firm principles for effective activism,” he said. For example, he said, Prof Wangari Maathai became renowned as a crusader for environmental justice because of her consistency and ability to carve a niche for herself in that area.

But Al Amin Kimathi acknowledged that a pocket of dubious activism exists “but they are fringe, in a minority.” He said there are countless genuine activists pursuing issues that improve people’s lives at great personal cost. “Most of us earn our living doing all sorts of other things and put the earnings in our activism. That’s my situation. I work far away from media most of the time, giving myself as an example of so many colleagues,” he said, adding that the notion of celebrity activism is “a creation of the media obsessed with the stars.”

Hussein Khalid, the executive director of Haki Africa, a Coast-based human rights organisation, told the Star that the majority of activists in the country are driven by a passion for justice to the helpless rather than money and fame. “As a lawyer, I could make much more money and be more famous taking up big, high-profile cases. But I choose to remain at Haki Africa to serve the meek and poor in society,” he said. He dismissed the notion that most activists are shallow with a huge appetite for money and media attention.

Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders chairman Kamau Ngugi told the Star that like every sector, there are always rogue elements but “who are very few“. He said there has been a systematic agenda targeted at denigrating and criminalising the place of human rights activism and journalists in the country.

Demas Kiprono, campaign manager at Amnesty International, told the Star that genuine activism has been the cog for positive change and reforms in the country “which detractors are not happy about”. “The celebrity narrative is a counter-narrative created by those opposed to human rights in order to de-legitimise human rights work. They conveniently leave out the fact that activists have secured justice, dignity and a voice for the downtrodden in society,” he said.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019-05-15-celebrity-activists-tainting-image-say-human-rights-defenders/

German Africa Prize goes to Kenyan Ushahidi IT pioneer

April 7, 2019

The winner of the 2019 German Africa Prize is Juliana Rotich, founder of software project Ushahidi, which was introduced to monitor violence in Kenya following the 2007 general elections.

Juliana Rotich (Getty Images)

Juliana Rotich became known in professional circles in 2007 as the co-founder of the open source platform Ushahidi (a Swahili word meaning ‘testimony’), which began in Kenya as an internet platform developed to map reports of post-election violence and which went on to revolutionize the international flow of data and information.

A 16-member independent jury selected Rotich from a list of 18 African nominees. The 42-year-old was informed at a meeting on Thursday 4 April 2019 at the German embassy in Nairobi, attended by Deputy Ambassador Michael Derus and the General Secretary of the German Africa Foundation, Ingo Badoreck. The award pays tribute to the Kenyan entrepreneur not only for her business achievements and technological innovations but  also for her outstanding sense of social responsibility. For more on this another regional awards for Africa see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/german-africa-award]

The Ushahidi logo

In an interview with DW in 2013, Rotich explained the philosophy behind Ushahidi: “One of the things that we are doing is that we have a partnership with civil society organizations, peace networks and youth networks. And these are organizations that are doing peace work in terms of messaging and encouraging the population to be peaceful and to conduct themselves in a peaceful way. So in that respect we are part of a partnership. Ushahidi’s key role in this partnership is the technology. And this is the crowdsourcing technology that allows people to report but also provides a way for digital humanitarians to volunteer and help to sift through the information, categorize it and make it available on the website.

Today Ushahidi is used in over 160 countries as a tool for crisis response and for independent election monitoring, for example in Nigeria and Afghanistan. It has also been used following natural disasters in Chile, Haiti and New Zealand. Juliana Rotich is regarded as one of the leading figures of the digital revolution in Africa and beyond.

From Ushahidi she went on to found BRCK, an innovative technology company which is now the biggest Wi-Fi provider in sub-Saharan Africa. The central product is a battery-operated modem which can function for up to eight hours without electrical power. It is used in 150 countries.

See also: https://www.huridocs.org/2018/09/tools-for-human-rights-documentation-our-2018-snapshot/

https://www.dw.com/cda/en/german-africa-prize-goes-to-kenyan-it-pioneer/a-48200177
https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001346880/kenyan-bags-german-africa-prize