Human Rights Defender of the Month: Kadar Abdi Ibrahim

Kadar Abdi Ibrahim est un fervent militant des droits humains et journaliste djiboutien – un pays où les journalistes sont fréquemment harcelés, soumis à des intimidations et représailles orchestrées par le gouvernement et empêchés de conduire leurs activités de façon indépendante. Pourtant, Kadar continue à utiliser sa voix et sa plume comme outils pour promouvoir la justice.

En tant que militant des droits humains, journaliste et blogueur, il est une cible à Djibouti. « Je suis témoin, quotidiennement, de l’injustice et des souffrances que subissent mes compatriotes. En tant qu’humain, impossible de rester les bras croisés », explique-t-il.

En 2015, Kadar était le co-directeur et rédacteur en chef du journal L’Aurore, le seul organe de presse privé de Djibouti. En 2016, le journal a été interdit de publication suite à la parution d’un article sur l’une des victimes du massacre de Buldhuqo, au cours duquel au moins 29 personnes ont été tuées. « Je suis animé par le désir de voir mon pays adopter une culture démocratique et surtout faire sortir mes concitoyens de l’ignorance », ajoute-t-il. Il occupe par ailleurs le poste de Secrétaire-général du parti politique MoDeL (Mouvement pour la démocratie et la liberté).

Pour tenter de le faire taire, la police a arrêté Kadar à plusieurs reprises, ce qui témoigne des dangers liés à la défense des droits à Djibouti. Souvent, le gouvernement refuse de légaliser les organisations des DDH à moins qu’ils ne prêtent allégeance aux autorités. Les DDH font en outre face à des actes de harcèlement judiciaire et extrajudiciaire, à des attaques, à des campagnes de dénigrement et à la confiscation de leurs documents d’identité.

Pendant 20 années, Kadar a été professeur de lycée, puis enseignant-chercheur à l’Université de Djibouti, mais il a perdu son poste en raison de son engagement en faveur des droits humains. Il a aussi été radié de la fonction publique.

En avril 2018, quelques jours après son retour de Genève, où il a mené des activités de plaidoyer en amont de l’Examen périodique universel (EPU) de Djibouti au Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, des agents du Service de documentation et de sécurité (SDS), les services de renseignement djiboutiens, ont fait une descente à son domicile et confisqué son passeport. En dépit du fait que sa situation est clairement identifiée comme un cas de représailles par le Secrétaire-général adjoint des Nations Unies, qui a fait rapport sur la question au Conseil des droits de l’homme en 2018 et 2019, son passeport reste aux mains du SDS. Il est donc dans l’impossibilité de quitter son propre pays depuis deux ans.

Il reste convaincu du fait que les institutions onusiennes et les acteurs internationaux devraient exercer davantage de pression sur le gouvernement djiboutien et pousser en faveur de la justice et des droits humains, notamment en ce qui concerne la mise en œuvre des recommandations EPU – qui est l’un des seuls moyens de faire la lumière, au niveau international, sur la situation des droits humains à Djibouti.

« Il est de mon devoir de dénoncer l’injustice pour apporter de l’espoir à tous ceux qui en sont victimes. Je ne dois pas me contenter uniquement de la dénonciation, mais aussi agir pour montrer qu’une autre voie est possible avec nos maigres moyens en ressources humaines et matériels », conclut Kadar.

Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is an outspoken human rights activist and journalist from Djibouti – a country where journalists are frequently harassed, subjected to government-orchestrated intimidation and reprisals, and prevented from pursuing their work independently. Yet, Kadar continues to use his voice and pen as tools to promote justice.

As a human rights activist, journalist, and blogger, he is a target in Djibouti. “Every day, I witness the injustice and suffering inflicted upon my fellow compatriots. As a human being, I cannot stand idly by,” Kadar explains.

Every day, I witness the injustice and suffering inflicted upon my fellow compatriots. As a human being, I cannot stand idly by.

From 2015, Kadar was the co-director and chief editor of L’Aurore, Djibouti’s only privately-owned media outlet. In 2016, the newspaper was banned following the publication of a story on one of the victims of the Buldhuqo massacre – which killed at least 29 people. “I sincerely wish to see my country adopt a democratic culture and overcome ignorance,” he says. He also serves as Secretary-General for the political party Movement for Democracy and Freedom (MoDeL).

As a living testimony of the dangers linked to defending human rights in Djibouti, the police have arrested Kadar several times in an attempt to silence him. Often, the government refuse to legalise HRDs’ associations, unless they pledge allegiance to the authorities. In addition, they frequently face judicial and extrajudicial harassment and attacks, smear campaigns, and confiscation of identity documents.

For 20 years, Kadar was a high school teacher, then a Professor and Researcher at the University of Djibouti, but lost his position due to his human rights work.  He was later dismissed from civil service. 

In April 2018, just days after returning from Geneva, where Kadar carried out advocacy activities ahead of Djibouti’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, agents of the Service de documentation et de sécurité (SDS, the intelligence service) raided his house and confiscated his passport. Despite his case being identified as a clear case of reprisals by the UN Assistant-Secretary-General, who reported on it to the Human Rights Council in 2018 and 2019, his passport remains with the SDS. He has been unable to leave his own country for the past two years.

He believes that UN institutions and international actors should put more pressure on the Djiboutian government, and call for justice and human rights, including the implementation of the UPR recommendations – which is one of the only ways of shining a light on Djibouti’s human rights situation at the international level.

It is my duty to denounce this injustice and bring hope to the victims. But I cannot content myself with speaking out against the situation; I also have to show that another path is possible, despite our limited human resources and financial means.

“It is my duty to denounce this injustice and bring hope to the victims. But I cannot content myself with speaking out against the situation; I also have to show that another path is possible, despite our limited human resources and financial means,” Kadar highlights.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

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“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

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Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim

Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim is one of his country’s leading advocates for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

Born 34 years ago into a family of Eight, in Kajokeji County, East of Juba, the Capital of South Sudan, Abacha ’s passion for human rights was born out of grim personal experience. At birth, he was immediately neglected by his father on discovering that the little infant was visually impaired.

“My own father denied me access to education because he considered my disability a kind of misfortune brought to him by my mother,” he says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Fadia Khalaf

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“I think reading at young age helped build my awareness on concepts like justice and rights in general. I was exposed to concepts around human freedom, and that nurtured the rebel in me,” she says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Mugisha Jelousy

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A resident of Kasenyi village, Nile Parish in Buliisa district, Mugisha is one of those affected by the Tilenga project, a multipronged project by Total E&P. The project involves reservation and development of land in districts of Buliisa and Nwoya for oil exploration, setting up of a crude oil processing plant and related infrastructure to support Uganda’s oil production activities.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Fadwo Hassan Jimale

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Not so for Fadwo Hassan Jimale, Somalia’s crusading human rights defender. As a ranking member of Somalia’s Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Fadwo and her colleagues host regular capacity building sessions for current and emerging women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Oliver Rubama

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