Human Rights Defenders of the Month: Kamal Ramadan, Kodi Marshall, and Ganja Ali

Born and raised in the Nuba mountains in Sudan, Kamal Ramadan, Kodi Marshall, and Ganja Ali have for years been fighting for the rights of the Sudanese people. In 2014, the trio formed the group Nuba Mountains Sounds, and has since promoted human rights and freedom through music and movie productions. “We wish to be the voice of the voiceless,” Kodi stresses.

The trio produces reggae, dance hall, and hip hop music about the struggles of the Sudanese people. “We have grown up in a war zone. We have seen people dying, we’ve seen bombs, we’ve seen a lot of things – this is why we sing songs about freedom,” Kamal says.

The trio were forced to leave Sudan as they feared for their own safety, leading them to seek asylum in Uganda, but not without challenges. “When we came, we did not have all the necessary papers, and [border control] did not believe our story,” Kamal says. Still, they are waiting to obtain all their legal papers. Consequently, they are living a life in limbo, unable to continue producing music and movies, or their human rights work. “The only thing we want is freedom, freedom for all,” Kodi states.

While carrying out their work in Sudan, the group faced a lot of repercussions in the form of threats, harassment, and restrictions. These include restrictions by the government to perform and screen movies in Khartoum. “If you sing about love, you will not have any issues, but if you want to tell the truth about people’s struggles, you will have a direct problem with the government,” Kamal tells us.

In addition to making music, the trio has produced five movies about the situation in Sudan, including a movie about HIV/AIDS. Their latest movie, Akasha, was screened at international film festivals in Canada, France, Morocco, and South Africa. Due to their asylum process and travel restrictions, the trio was unable to attend the screenings. “We wish to go and promote our work, but we are not allowed,” Ganja says.

Since 2017, the group has received support form DefendDefenders, including financial support, protection, and capacity building training to continue their activism and art. 

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Chantal Mutamuriza

Chantal Mutamuriza does not wait for problems to be solved. When the Burundian woman human rights defender (WHRD) encounters a problem, she will seek a solution there and then. When hundreds of thousands Burundians had to flee from political unrest in 2015, many of them were stranded in refugee camps with little economic opportunity or access to education. In her problem-solving spirit, Chantal felt compelled to act: she quit her job to put her skills and network to use and founded the NGO Light For All.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Foni Joyce

Foni Joyce has engaged in humanitarian work since the age of 20, when she joined a refugee student organisation to amplify the voices of refugees. Originally from South Sudan, Foni grew up as a refugee in Nairobi, Kenya, but she makes it clear that ‘refugee’ is merely a legal definition: “I firstly define myself as a human being who has been uprooted.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Meskerem  Geset Techane

Meskerem Geset Techane has fought injustice since she can remember: as a child she was known to stand up for herself and others, whether against bullies, teachers, her parents or church. Fighting injustice and promoting human rights is a common theme in the lawyer’s life. “It’s a passion, promoting human rights is not something you choose to do for a living or as a career opportunity. It’s more of a calling for me.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Andrew Gole

Andrew Gole’s journey to become a human rights defender (HRD) was sparked by a small request: in 2015, a human rights organisation reached out to the trained software engineer about a digital security training. “I didn’t know much about the HRD eco-system or about digital security as an environment on its own,” Andrew says. “So, I did some research, and realised digital security support is just the basic support I used to provide in an internet café.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Onesmo Olengurumwa

Protecting human rights is Onesmo Olengurumwa’s passion. When his secondary school lacked access to water and was threatened with closure, Onesmo successfully rallied his fellow students together and protested for their right to education. While at university, he was the human rights association’s president. Becoming a human rights defender was not really a conscious choice, but just the natural course of Onesmo’s life.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Malab Alneel

Malab Alneel was only 20 when Sudan’s revolution started in December 2018, but she knew it was the moment to get involved: “I grew up in a house that was very political. All of my sisters are activists, my parents are very involved. Activism has always been there. But for me it started with the revolution. It just felt like a time for change.”

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Karis Moses Oteba

Karis Moses Oteba is DefendDefenders’ Protection Officer and Well-being Lead, promoting self-care and effective stress management amongst human rights defenders. He started defending human rights at the early age of 11, as a member of the children’s parliament, convened to listen to the views of children concerning Uganda’s 1997 Children’s Act.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Vanessa Tsehaye

Vanessa Tsehaye started her work as a human rights defender at an early age: at 16, she founded a high school group in support of imprisoned Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye. Seven years later, the same diaspora organisation, One Day Seyoum, is one of Eritrea’s leading human rights organisations – spear-headed by the now 23-year old Vanessa.

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