Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

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

In Memoriam for Mwatha, human rights defender disappeared and killed in Kenya

February 22, 2019

Caroline Mwatha Ochieng
Caroline Mwatha Ochieng

Gacheke Gachihi, coordinator of Mathare Social Justice Centre and member of the Social Justice Centre Working Group, celebrates the life of a fellow activist, Caroline Mwatha Ochiengwho was a tireless campaigner against police brutality and illegal arrests in Kenya, and was involved in documenting these cases. Through the documentation of these systematic injustices, Caroline, a founding member of Dandora Social Justice Centre and member of the Social Justice Centre Working Group (the collective voice of social justice centers in the informal settlements in Nairobi), was exposed to police harassment and threats, but she never gave up and continued to fight for social justice. Earlier this month, she was murdered. Her disappearance and murder sends a terrifying message to human rights defenders and social justice activists who are fighting against systematic extrajudicial killings and police brutality in Kenya.

I recall a recent event that illustrates Caroline’s tireless commitment. On December 13, 2018, at 9 p.m., I received a distress call from an activist who had been illegally arrested and detained at the Kwa Mbao Administrative Police (AP) camp — an informal settlement where the Dandora community Social Justice Centre was monitoring human rights violations. Carol Mwatha was our team leader at the notorious Kwa Mbao AP camp, which is under the jurisdiction of the Dandora Social Justice Centre. She was responsible for monitoring and documenting cases of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings by security agencies.

Under the leadership of Carol Mwatha, we spoke to the officer in charge of the AP camp, who was supervising those who had been arrested in the raid that evening. We demanded the unconditional release of our comrades. They were being detained illegally for refusing to bribe a police officer, something that exposes many youth in these areas to extrajudicial killing. As a result of Carol Mwatha’s intervention, our comrades were released unconditionally.

……

The struggle against social injustice and deplorable living conditions exposed Carol Mwatha to dangers that eventually led to her disappearance on February 6 and her subsequent murder. Caroline’s body was dumped in the city mortuary under a different name on Tuesday, February 12, and the police reported a story of a botched abortion to cover up her murder.

Caroline Mwatha Ochieng was a tireless campaigner against police brutality and illegal arrests, and she was involved in documenting these cases and referring them to the independent Police Oversight Authority and other organizations that have been mandated to seek accountability and redress against human rights violations in Kenya. Through the documentation of these cases, Carol was exposed to serious police harassment and threats, but she never gave up and continued to fight for social justice.

In a rather bizarre twist, it turns out that the Catholic Church on Thursday refused to hold a requiem Mass for Caroline Mwatha on the grounds that postmortem results showed that she died as a result of excessive bleeding caused by possible abortion. Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops General Secretary Father Daniel Rono on Friday told the Star that life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong. Similar sentiments were shared by National Council of Churches of Kenya Deputy General Secretary Reverend Nelson Makanda. “The sanctity of the foetus must be protected and that starts from conception. Once fertilisation occurs that is a human being and the child must be protected to its natural death. Anyone who aborts is a murderer,” he said.

Scottish Bar gives inaugural human rights award to Salome Nduta of Kenya

January 9, 2019

Salome Nduta receives her award from Lord Bonomy, Chair of the judging panel in Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award.

Salome Nduta, from Nairobi, Kenya, is a protection officer with the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, and was honored as the first winner of the Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award. [see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/scottish-bar-international-human-rights-award]

I was born and brought up in one of the informal settlements of Nairobi in Kenya – Korogocho. I experienced first hand deprivation and lack of necessities as a child. I saw the struggles of a single mother eking [out a living] for her children surrounded by poverty and human rights violations by both state and non-state actors. It is this kind of environment that laid the basis of my activism work. My journey of activism has been full of experiential moments that have continued to push me to the next level. In all these moments, the legal fraternity has walked with me side by side. In Korogocho, a legal advice centre first trained me as a paralegal and walked with me through my journey of campaign against forceful evictions and for demolition of informal settlements which saw me arrested a number of times for standing up against oppression. Korogocho and other informal settlements do still exist but there is now in place clear eviction and resettlement guidelines, a housing Act and article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 on social economic rights, as a result of the work of human rights defenders (HRDs). HRDs play a pivotal role in bringing and sustaining change. My activism life is a journey of moments and not just challenges, moments of falling, waking up, dusting yourself down and keeping on walking. Some moments are sad and some are joyous even when you are inhaling tear gas from canisters thrown by police.

“In each moment, one constant factor remains, change does occur! It is this change that keeps human rights defenders going. At times, it is difficult to see the change with our naked eyes but faith makes us believe that change has occurred or will occur, however long it takes, and that for me and other HRDs is sufficient. We are all blessed with characteristics that best describe us: patience, focus and dedication to the cause. My employer, NCHRD-K, deserves recognition and accolades for giving me the space and opportunities for growth and sharpening my skills to do what I love doing most, supporting human rights defenders. My daily tasks entail responding to distress calls from targeted HRDs day and night – targeted by both state and non-state actors – assessing their cases and advising on best suited intervention including legal, medical, psychosocial and relocation. The environment which HRDs operate in within the country cannot be described as entirely safe. I get satisfaction and strength when HRDs come and say, your intervention has brought me this far. In 2016, a human rights defender was sleeping in his house with his ten-year-old son Ainea, seven-month-old daughter and his wife. A petrol bomb was thrown into the house and it was by sheer luck that Ainea was still awake. He woke his parents. They safely got out, but everything else was burnt to ashes. This was the first time I was dealing with a case where children were involved. In 2018, the family invited us to the opening of their new home and I could not contain my emotions when I heard Ainea and his sister tell me thank you for the support to their family. Ainea declared he will support his father in his work as long as God gives him strength. For me this was a major change, winning a young boy into activism because he has seen it, lived it and emerged victorious. My passion is to give life to Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, where humanity is respected not just in rhetoric but in words and deeds.”

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/scottish-bar-salutes-salome-s-work-1-4852029

Human Rights Defenders in Kenya honored with national awards

December 3, 2018

Kenya is one of the few countries with a fully developed system of national awards for human rights defenders. They are organized by the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya and the Working Group on Human Defenders. A ceremony was held on 1 December 2018 at the residence of the Belgium ambassador.

A panel of eminent Kenyans chaired by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has honoured rights activist Okiya Omtatah with a Lifetime Achivement award. Omtatah also scooped the Popular Vote award in the annual ceremony.

Anastacia Nambo and Is’shaq Abubakar were awarded the 2018 Human Rights Defender of the year award:

Ms Nambo from Mombasa is a mother, a preacher and an avid advocate of environmental rights. She started her human rights work in 2009 when the Metal Refinery was established in the Uhuru Owino slums. The adverse effects of the metal refinery led to active advocacy and lobbying by Nambo and her community. Threats and attacks. Their struggle bore fruit in 2014 when the refinery was closed. She has endured verbal attacks, threats through texts and attempts to break into her home and had to seek refuge in Uganda.

Is’shaq, a public relations manager working with indigenous communities in Lamu, is a human rights defender on environmental rights issues. He co-founded Save Lamu, an umbrella of CBOs established in Lamu in the onset of the Lapsset project. Save Lamu teaches the community on the environmental impact of the Lapset project and seeks legal redress for the locals. His work has earned him threats and police harassment which he has overcome through strategic partnerships with mainstream organisations like the NCHRD, Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). Receiving his award, he said it will legitimise his work and encourage other human rights advocates in Lamu.

Christine Kandie won the Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year award. Kandie fights for the land rights of Endorois women and is the programme’s officer for the Endorois Welfare Council (EWC). She represented her community at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) session in 2011.

The objective of the awards is to honour extraordinary work of human rights defenders who face a myriad of challenges in their calling.  “The award ceremony is a special occasion for these courageous individuals who do excellent work within our community,” said National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Executive Director Kanau Ngugi.

Read more at: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001304811/human-rights-guardians-feted-ahead-of-day-of-human-rights-celebrations

UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize 2018 shared by Canadian film maker and Kenyan NGO

September 30, 2018

© Timea Hajdrak / The Coexist Initiative

On 16 November 2018, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay will award the 2018 edition of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence to filmmaker Manon Barbeau (Canada) and the NGO The Coexist Initiative (Kenya). An international jury recommended the two laureates in recognition of their work in human rights, promotion of tolerance and inclusion.

Manon Barbeau, an innovative social entrepreneur and filmmaker, is awarded for her defense of human rights and tolerance through the art of cinema and a wide range of activities that she develops through Wapikoni Mobile Studios, amplifying the voices of indigenous people. Wapikoni hosts educational workshops and film screenings to raise awareness and educate the wider public about indigenous cultures, languages and identities. It also provides mentorship and capacity building in audiovisual creation to indigenous youth, allowing them to master digital tools by directing short films and musical works.

The Coexist Initiative is awarded the Prize for its promotion of gender equality, social justice and human rights, with particular focus on women and girls. The Coexist Initiative is a non-profit organization working to end violence against women, particularly through an approach that tackles harmful cultural practices and negative stereotypes based on gender. It moreover advocates for the rights and empowerment of women and girls by better involving men, boys and community leaders in the work of the association.

For more on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unesco-madanjeet-singh-prize-for-the-promotion-of-tolerance-and-non-violence

https://en.unesco.org/news/canadian-filmmaker-and-kenyan-ngo-receive-unesco-madanjeet-singh-prize-2018

http://www.uniindia.com/canadian-filmmaker-and-kenyan-ngo-to-receive-unesco-madanjeet-singh-prize/world/news/1364773.html

Kenyan Lawyer, Allan Maleche, wins 2018 Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award

July 26, 2018

The International AIDS Society (IAS), amfAR and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation have announced that the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award 2018 goes to a Kenyan lawyer, Allan Achesa Maleche, for his role in advancing human rights in the field of HIV and AIDS. Maleche received the award at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/elizabeth-taylor-human-rights-award

Allan Maleche knows that the law is a powerful tool to protect human rights,” IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “As a tireless crusader for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV and TB, Allan has achieved legal victories that have not only protected individuals. They have also led to smarter, more effective policies that reject stigma and discrimination and advance more humane and effective approaches to ending the twin epidemics of HIV and TB.”

“This award recognizes how critical rights-based approaches are to the HIV and TB responses. It is a wonderful honour that will inspire me and my colleagues in our continued work to protect the human rights of everyone affected by these epidemics,” the laureate said. He becomes the third winner of the award. The first winners of the award were Iranian physicians Arash and Kamiar Alaei in 2012, then Ugandan Physician and gay rights activist Paul Semugoma in 2014.

https://howafrica.com/kenyan-lawyer-allan-maleche-wins-the-2018-elizabeth-taylor-human-rights-award/

Four young women human rights defenders speak out

September 21, 2017

Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed, says SARA VIDA COUMANS in Open Democracy of 15 September 2017, but around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities. These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them. (“We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”)


Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.

Madeline Wells.

Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved.

“As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me,” she said. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches.” Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth “face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimination, high suicide rates, and poor healthcare,” she added. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches – art, music and dance are equally powerful ways of speaking out, and social media has had a huge impact.”


Nancy Herz, student and author from Norway.

Nancy Herz.

Nancy Herz. Photo: Vincent Hansen. All rights reserved.

In 2016 Herz wrote an article entitled “We Are the Shameless Arab Women and Our Time Starts Now” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” subsequently started in Norway. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others,” she said. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others.” “I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too,” said Herz. “This is what fighting against injustice is about. By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger…it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”


Sandra Mwarania, youth activist from Kenya.

Sandra Mwarania.

Sandra Mwarania. Photo: Kenneth Kigunda / Amnesty International Kenya. All rights reserved.

Mwarania co-founded the Student Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy. “Young people are brilliant creatives, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, innovative communicators and active doers,” she said. “It is unfortunate that we are yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers who still perceive us as inexperienced and rowdy.” “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.” “As well as being well-informed on human rights issues, students and young people need the skills to address the pressing socio-political issues around them,” Mwarania added. “When young people are engaged at every level of the decision making process, the results can be amazing. We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”


Fabiola Arce, women’s rights defender from Peru.

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone).

Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone) in #NiUnaMenos protest in Lima, Peru, 2016. Photo: Andrick Astonitas / Amnesty International Peru.

Arce has campaigned to pressure her government to investigate cases of forced sterilisation of women in the 1990s. “This serious human rights violation mostly targeted indigenous women, and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering,” she said. “Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me.” “We are determined not to let the injustices of the past go unaccounted for. Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me to work towards shaping a different future.”

Amnesty International’s BRAVE campaign works with young women human rights defenders like these and fights for their recognition and protection. Find out more.

Source: “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”: young women human rights defenders speak out | openDemocracy

Even Maina Kiai cannot escape harassment in Kenya

August 22, 2017

There are certainly worse violations to which human rights defenders are submitted than a short detention at the airport, but this case concerns Maina Kiai, who is former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly. Kiai, also Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) board member.  On 20 August 2017 he was stopped from catching his flight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the US. This was after immigration officers demanded that he gets travel clearance before they could stamp his passport. He was held for about two hours before but was allowed to travel after Director of Immigration Major-General Gordon Kihalangwa (Rtd) intervened. Kihalangwa told the Star that Kiai was not detained but was taken through routine security checks that every traveler is subjected to. “Kiai was not restricted. It was a normal security check and not meant to demean him or anyone.”

That notoriety has protective value can be seen from what he added: “Kiai is a renown personality. He is even known to me. I spoke to him personally before he traveled“.  [for more on Maina Kiai: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maina-kiai/]

Still, human rights defenders such as  Njonjo Mue termed the incident “disturbing and an attempt by the state to manage its citizens with a fist”“We are dealing with a regime determined to silence all independent voices, its dictatorship and we back to 1990s”Khelef Khalifa of Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) said it was not a coincidence but a deliberate attempt to silence all those voices that speak to power.

Last week, there were attempts by the state to shut down the NGOs KHRC and AfriCOG in what government termed as failure to comply with statutory obligations. The events climaxed by failed raid on AfriCOG offices. On 16 August 2017 this is what Front Line Defenders had to say about this:

Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the African Centre for Open Governance’s offices.  On 14 and 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board notified the Kenya Human Rights Commission- KHRC and the African Centre for Open Governance- AfriCOG that the Board would be cancelling their registration. The NGO Co-Ordination Board also called for the freezing of their accounts and the arrest of the Board of Directors and members of AfriCOG ……

On 16 August 2017, Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the AfriCOG offices, however, the search was called off in order to investigate complaints by the organisation. On 15 August 2017, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board sent a letter to the Director of Criminal Investigations stating that AfriCOG will be shut down and calling for the arrests of its directors and members. The NGO Co-Ordination Board has alleged that AfriCOG is not a registered organisation under the NGO Co-Ordination Act 1990 as required by law. The letter, in which AfriCOG and the Central Bank of Kenya were copied, also called for the freezing of accounts in the name of  AfriCOG.

On 14 August 2017, the Kenya Human Rights Commission received a letter from the NGO Co-Ordination Board de-registering the NGO. In the letter, the Executive Director of the NGO Co-Ordination Board also asked the Central Bank of Kenya, who was copied in the correspondence, to freeze any accounts in the name of KHRC. The allegations by the Board include that the NGO has illegal bank accounts, that it illegally employs expatriates and that it is concealing illegal remuneration of board members. 

These allegations are similar to those made by the NGO Co-Ordination Board about the KHRC in 2015 when the Board issued a press statement announcing that it had initiated the de-registration process for a number of NGOs, including the KHRC. In Kenya Human Rights Commission v Non-Governmental Organisations Co-Ordination Board [2016] eKLR, Judge Onguto found that the NGO Co-Ordination Board had violated Article 37 of the Constitution by not giving the KHRC a hearing before deciding to cancel its registration certificate and freeze its bank accounts.

Source: Rights defenders condemn Maina Kiai detention, urges him to sue | The Star, Kenya

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001251969/maina-kiai-briefly-stopped-at-jkia-as-officials-demand-clearance-to-travel

http://freeassembly.net/news/thank-you-from-kiai

KIOS Foundation in Finland publishes video interviews with four human rights defenders from Asia and Africa

January 19, 2017

KIOS is perhaps not the best-known human rights foundation in the world but that is surely mostly due to the fact that it operates from a small base: Finland. KIOS was founded by 11 Finnish human rights and development NGOs. The representatives of the founding NGOs form the Board of KIOS. In Finland, KIOS raises awareness on the significance of human rights and the work of human rights defenders in developing countries. It also advocates for the development of good practices in Finnish foreign and development policy in support ofHRDs. KIOS focuses its external support on 3 countries in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) and 3 in South Asia (Nepal, Sri Lanka and to Tibetan civil society organizations in exile). Some long-term partner organizations of KIOS are also supported in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Ulla Anttila is the Executive Director.

Ulla Anttila

On 17 December 2016 KIOS published four video links of interviews with human rights defenders from Asia and Africa (video links), available on You Tube:

Read the rest of this entry »

Killed Kenyan lawyer, Willie Kimani, named Jurist of the Year 2016

December 12, 2016

 

willie-kimani-killed-hrd-in-kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Kimani, the Kenyan human rights lawyer who was murdered this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/03/body-of-disappeared-human-rights-lawyer-kimani-client-found-kenya-impunity/], was honoured with an award for his bravery in defending the poor and oppressed in Kenya. While receiving the award, Kimani’s widow Hannah Kimani said she had never imagined that his standing up for justice would eventually amount to his death. “No amount of words can explain who Willy was. He was one of a kind… with this award, it shows that his work was not in vain,” she said.
Executive Director Samwel Mohochi of the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists said “We give it to him as recognition for the ultimate price he paid in performing his work as human rights defender and as a reminder to the risks that face all other human rights defenders”…“This will renew our commitment to all human rights defenders. It is an appreciation of the work he did”.

Source: Slain lawyer Willie Kimani honoured with yearly title

https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2016/12/murdered-lawyer-willie-kimani-named-jurist-of-the-year/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-willie-kimani