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Updates from April 2024

Hello friends,

This month marked one year since the dreadful civil war in Sudan broke out that has claimed over 14,000  lives and displaced millions, leaving 25 million reliant on humanitarian aid. As the world grapples with diverse crises, international scrutiny on the country  should be maintained and Sudanese people should not be left behind.  Stonger calls for cessation of the conflict should be amplified including an increase in humanitarian aid and support for Sudan.

In line with this call, DefendDefenders remains steadfast in its support to Sudanese human rights defenders. Through SudanDefenders– the national coalition for human rights defenders in Sudan, human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk have access to protection support, as well advoacy and capacity building initiatives to ensure that they continue their work safely and effectively. Considering this, from 23-25 April, we supported SudanDefenders to convene a discussion on protection interventions for Sudanese defenders in and outside of the country, assess the coalition’s achievements and challenges and strategise on how to enhance its efficiency and capacity.

During the same month, DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders hosted the outgoing and incoming United Nations special rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Clement Voule and Gina Romero for a global consultation to strengthen protection of the rights to freedom of assembly and association. Additionally, the convening focused on advancing the protection of social movements and climate justice activits. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are essential components of any democracy that should be safeguarded. I therefore commend Mr. Voule’s dedication towards this work during his six year tenure and we pledge the same support to Ms. Romero as she continues this crucial work.

My team and I also had bilateral meetings during a courtesy visit to the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin where among others we met  key officials  to discuss strategic cooperation to consolidate existing relations.

Finally, I appreciate all partners who continue to ensure that human rights defenders carry out their work safely and effectively. I further reassure you of DefendDefenders’ total commitment to the same, and to the defense of those who risk their lives for freer civic spaces. I invite you to read further details on our engagements during this month.     

Hassan Shire,
Executive Director, DefendDefenders
Chairperson, AfricanDefenders

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.

Updates from DefendDefenders

From 2-5, and 15-18 April 2024, DefendDefenders in partnership with Meta conducted digital security training session for six  and 11 participants respectively. The training focused on basic digital security hygiene and the proper management of online accounts.

From April 15-19 2024, DefendDefenders trained 12 junior auditors on the SAFETAG  framework.  The SAFETAG junior auditors training aims to create a pool of qualified and knowledgeable digital security practitioners who can support their local communities.

We concluded the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC55, 26 February-5 April 2024) on a positive note, as states adopted a resolution on South Sudan that renews the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in the country (CHRSS). This follows weeks of advocacy, including through a civil society letter DefendDefenders coordinated.  

From 22-26 April 2024, DefendDefenders with support from the Netherlands Embassy in Uganda trained HRDs from greater northern Uganda (West Nile, Lango and Acholi). A total of 10 HRDs were trained.

From 23-24, April 2024, DefendDefenders, together with Sudan Human Rights Defenders Coalition (SudanDefenders) held a mid-year review. SudanDefenders’ two-day meeting reviewed progress, challenges, and recommendations since the election of its executive committee and board in September 2023. The participants also reviewed the coalition’s work plan and contributed to its draft strategic plan. 

From 8-9 April 2024, DefendDefenders hosted a pivotal global consultation convened by  Hon. Clement Voule, the outgoing United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, along with partners, the Solidarity Center, ILAW Network, ICNL, and the World Movement for Democracy. The workshop served to address gains, challenges, and emerging threats to the freedom of peaceful assembly and association (FoAA) rights. Strategies were developed to extend support for climate justice activists and social movements and  enhance collaboration between civil society and social movements.  The worksop facilitated the gathering of recommendations for the upcoming 56th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) report, focusing on preserving gains and addressing emerging restrictions.

AfricanDefenders participated in the African Civil Society Organisations Consultation of the UN Working Group on business and human rights for General Assembly report. Several opportunities were highlighted, including a call to all UN and international organisations to partner with businesses that respect minority rights, educating businesses on the importance of inclusion, collaboration between the UN Working Group and African Commission Human and People’s Rights to develop a legal framework, and advocating for minority inclusion in trade unions, particularly in the informal sector. 

AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders participated in the East African Women Human Rights Defenders Network (EAWHRDN) steering committee meeting to discuss implementation of the network’s plan. The steering committee members formed clusters for resource mobilisation and communication to support the different activities. In addition, there was a meeting held with Equality Now and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights East Africa Regional Office (OHCHR-EARO), to plan a capacity building session for the EAWHRDN on Equality Now’s guide for protecting Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

During the month of April, DefendDefenders received a total of 113 requests for support from HRDs at risk. Out of the total requests received, 27 requests were approved, supporting 67 beneficiaries. 10 requests were referred to various partner organisations, 60 requests were rejected while 15 requests remain pending and under the verification process. For the approved cases, 16 requests were from Uganda, 3 cases from DRC, 6 cases from South Sudan, 2 cases from Sudan, and 1 case from Kenya.


Country Updates:


Burundi experienced significant human rights challenges marked by political instability, violence, and targeted attacks against activists and opposition members. The country continued to grapple with systemic issues of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances. On 6 April 2024, police officers abducted Djuma Ndayishimiye, an activist affiliated with the National Council for Freedom (CNL) in Burundi, from his residence in Bujumbura. They fired shots, assaulted him, and then proceeded to take him away. According to witnesses, the officers violently beat him, dragged him out of his home naked, and his current whereabouts remain unknown.


Climate change effects casued a severe humanitarian crisis in Kenya due to devastating floods, which killed over 170 people, displaced around 200,000 people; destroyed property, infrastructure, and livelihoods across the country; and exacerbated socioeconomic vulnerabilities.This disaster highlighted the government’s inadequate response and infrastructure shortcomings in informal settlements like Mathare.  

Benna Buluma, a prominent human rights defenders known as Mama Victor, was one of ten individuals who tragically lost their lives on 4 April due to being trapped in their homes by floods. The government announced on April 30 that individuals residing in vulnerable areas must relocate within 48 hours or face forced eviction.


Somalia continues to grapple with conflict, widespread human rights violations, like harrrasment, intimidation and detaining of journalists and a troubling surge in gender-based violence. On 1 April 2024, local police threatened and detained Mohamud Abdirashid Abdi, a freelancer for Nairobi-based Radio Ergo, for exposing a police shooting of two tuk tuk drivers over unpaid ‘fees’ in a Facebook post. His family’s access has been denied, and reports suggest was beaten in custody Somaliland authorities, detained Shueyb Hassan Dheere, a reporter for Horn Cable TV, and his cameraman Mustafe Xayd while they were gathering footage of residents impacted by forced evictions. The authorities held them overnight at Daloodha police station and released them the following day without charge.

South Sudan

On 3 April 2024, the Council adopted an important resolution on South Sudan, ensuring continued international scrutiny of the country’s human rights situation. With the extension of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) – the main achievement of the resolution – the next reporting period will cover South Sudan’s transitional period (now planned to conclude in February 2025), as well as national elections (planned for December 2024). On 5 April 2024, the Council also adopted a resolution on “technical assistance” for South Sudan. On 17 April 2024, Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak, a South Sudanese critic and former refugee in Kenya, faced charges of criminal defamation before a county court in Juba. This happened after he reappeared in detention in South Sudan, under the control of the National Security Service (NSS). Prior to this, he had been forcibly disappeared under troubling circumstances in Kenya.


In Uganda, the exclusion and marginalisation of minority groups has persisted. Uganda’s Constitutional Court upheld most provisions of the controversial 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act, despite global criticism. The law, passed in 2023, retains measures like the death penalty in certain cases. However, the court invalidated sections of the law related to healthcare access and renting premises to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and others. The court rejected challenges to the law’s constitutionality, asserting it mirrors parliamentary opinion, and dismissed claims of financial implications. Additionally, the judges ruled that challengers failed to demonstrate the law’s negative financial effects or breaches in parliamentary procedures during its passing.