Updates from April 2022

Dear Colleagues,

April has been a busy month for us at DefendDefenders. We concluded our participation at the 49th session of the UN human Rights Council (HRC49), where we delivered several oral statements on a number of issues under the Council’s consideration. We are particularly proud of the Council’s final decision of this session – a resolution re-affirming and supporting human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations. Read my reflections on HRC49. 

We also participated in the 71st session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR71) which convened from 21 April to until 13 May 2022. At the session, we made our input on the state of human rights and rule of law on the continent, including the status of the rights of persons with disabilities. I particularly pointed out the growing trend of judicial harassment of HRDs, which forced many of them to flee their countries of origin into exile, and highlighted  the work we are doing to assist such exiled HRDs to remain #SafeButNotSilent under our Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative.

Earlier, ahead of the ACHPR71, we published our bi-annual report on the status of human rights and rule of law in Africa, covering the period between November 2021 and April 2022. The report particularly highlighted the worrying increase in human rights violations in the lead-up to, during and immediately after elections, a trend that was observed in almost all the countries covered.

The situation of human rights defenders with disabilities and persons with disabilities in the region generally remains of particular concern. Last year, our research team spent several months studying the situation of persons with disabilities in conflict countries covering Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The resultant report, launched on 29 April shows that there remains a wide range of environmental, institutional and attitudinal barriers that continue to stand in the way of their full enjoyment of human rights.   

At the national level, we continued to train HRDs working in different human rights areas to strengthen their digital and physical security capabilities as they continue to navigate the numerous challenges in their line of work. For example, in Uganda, we trained lawyers who are handling delicate human rights cases like torture on how to safeguard their case material online.

I invite you to look at what more we have been up to this month.

Hassan Shire,

Executive Director, DefendDefenders

Chairperson, AfricanDefenders.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

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.

Opportunities and Recommended Readings:

Updates from DefendDefenders

  • In total, between 1-30 April 2022, DefendDefenders received 59 requests for support from HRDs.  Of these, 29 were approved (15 male, eight female, and   one trans gender), 16 were referred to other partner organizations, 12 were rejected, and seven are still pending verification. 
  • DefendDefenders carried out a total of eight digital and physical security trainings in April, benefiting 117 HRDs. Of these, 56 were male, while 61 were female.
  • On 1 April, DefendDefenders concluded its participation at the 49thsession of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC49), where it lobbied for a resolution on South Sudan and facilitated the participation of Tanzania’s civil society in the country’s Universal Peer Review mechanism.
  • The next session will be the Council’s 50th– a milestone. For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out two years ago, we will resume full in-person advocacy. Our priorities will be Eritrea and Sudan (we will advocate for resolutions on both countries), and we will support partners’ efforts to extend the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
  • DefendDefenders participated in the 71st session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR71) that started on 21 April 2022. Together with AfricanDefenders, DefendDefenders made a total of seven statements at the session covering a wide range of issues, including; the state of human rights and rule of law, the safety and protection of human rights defenders, the status of the rights of persons with disabilities, the status of the freedom of speech and expression on the continent, among others.
  • Alongside DefendDefenders, AfricanDefenders also participated in the ACHPR71 and delivered a statement on the human rights situation in Africa. We jointly called for accountability and justice on behalf of State actors to end the cycle of impunity witnessed during election periods. We also highlighted the worrying trend of unconstitutional changes of government through coups that have been occurring across the continent.
  • In the same session, ACHPR in partnership with DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders co-organised a joint panel discussion on judicial harassment of human rights defenders and attacks on civic space in Africa.

Country Updates:

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Kasale Maleton Mwaana

Kasale’s human rights activism precedes his years. The son of pastoralist parents from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, he grew up seeing his parents and entire community having to defend their land and way of life against authorities who thought their lands could be put to better use. Now, at 25, Kasale is already one of the most recognizable advocates of his people’s cause, much to the ire of Tanzanian authorities.
“Our people’s struggle goes back many generations. It started with the pushing out of our forefathers from Serengeti to gazette Serengeti National Park in 1959, and then further evictions from the Ngorongoro crater to gazette the Ngorongoro conservation area in 1975. Since then, every generation has had to resist further evictions. It’s now my generation’s turn,” he says.