EAST AND HORN OF AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK
Kampala: EHAHRD-Net welcomes its new members
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net), is happy to announce the extension of the Network to include the new members of the East African Community, Burundi and Rwanda.
On the final day of the Network’s Strategic Planning Meeting which was held from the 28th to 30th April in Entebbe, a Focal Point person was designated both from the Burundi and Rwandan delegations.
Mrs. Immaculée Hunja from the Association des Femmes Juristes du Burundi will be representing Burundi and Emmanuel Nzeyimana from AJPRODHO has been designated by the Rwandese delegation. The Focal Points are expected to represent the Network both at a national but also regional and international level and to expand the Network’s membership within their respective countries. Immaculée and her organisation have achieved significant successes in improving women and girls’ access to land in Burundi and Emmanuel is one of the dynamic members of a new generation of HRDs in Rwanda, following the deaths of a significant part of the older generation of HRDs in or in the aftermaths of the Genocide.
“We are delighted to welcome our new East African Community partners to the Network. Their adhesion will not only help to further enrich the Network by bringing in new perspectives, realities and challenges. It will also help to break the monopoly of English in the Network as the Secretariat is committed to ensuring that we become a bilingual network” says Hassan Shire Sheikh, Chairperson of EHAHRD-Net.
The importance of establishing coalitions of human rights defenders at a national level was highlighted and identified as being one of the key areas of work and collaboration between the Secretariat and Network members. Samwel Mohochi of Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) offered a concrete example of the creation of the National Coalition in Kenya and its recent response to the human rights crisis following the contested elections. Both of the new Focal Points expressed in their introductory speeches their commitment to promoting and strengthening national coalitions as a means to adequately protect defenders in their respective countries and liaise effectively with the sub-regional Network.
A series of sessions were held to prioritise and identify activities in the key fields of advocacy, protection and capacity building which Network members could collaborate on in the coming two years.
Network members were also called on to find innovative, yet realistic, ways which would help to enhance networking and strengthen the links between the Secretariat and the members.
Each Focal Point and delegation presented an overview of the general human rights situation in their respective countries placing particular emphasis on the current situation facing human rights defenders. These revealed the need for the Network to raise awareness of the particularly dire human rights situation in Eritrea where activism has been completely quashed and the need to continue to monitor the situation in Western Kenya where the Kenyan Focal Point has currently identified 4000 cases of torture at the hands of the Kenyan military perpetrated in the space of just more than a month. The particularly harsh situation facing HRDs in Darfur as well as the increasing crackdown on the media in Khartoum are also two situations will were identified as requiring particular attention especially in the run-up to the national elections scheduled for 2009. Finally it highlighted the importance of re-enforcing efforts to increase attention given to the systematic attacks against journalists in Somalia.
In light of the challenges faced throughout the sub-region, Network members also acknowledged the need to advocate for an end to impunity throughout the sub-region and to continue to call on their respective authorities to protect and ensure freedom of expression.
EHAHRD-Net would like to thank Chantal Mutamuriza of the International Service for Human Rights, Michele Millard from Centre for Refugees Studies at York University as well as KIOS and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for having participated in and supported the meeting.
Ms Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Officer at [email protected] or +256-775-141756.