“Closing Space for Civil Society and Media in East Africa: Forging a Collaborative Response”
23 February 2018 (Nairobi, Kenya)
We, more than 60 civil society organisation and media representatives from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda working on human rights, democratic development, transparency, digital media, women and youth empowerment, legal aid, litigation and other issues of public interest are gathered in Nairobi to express our firm resolve to stand together in solidarity as civil society and media.
We will remain vigilant against threats to civic space. We commit to collaborate and provide support to each other through individual and joint efforts at the national and regional levels to combat shrinking space.
We note with concern a trend of closing civic space in the three East African countries characterized by increasing impunity. This has been evidenced by repressive tactics perpetrated by state and non-state actors, including among others:
We are cognizant that shrinking civic space is not unique to the region but is contextualised by the decline in democratic ideals globally. Governments seem to adopt repressive tactics from each other and use similar justifications to shrink civic space including national security prerogatives and promotion of accountability within the media and civil society sectors.
Further, as civic space advocates, we note that a repressed civic environment adversely affects not only civil society organisations, the media and ultimately other sectors, but also the ordinary citizen, and leads to cultural, economic, political and social decline of a society.
As a coalition, we have identified areas in which joint interventions are necessary and have developed regional strategies and interventions to maintain and claim civic space. We resolve:
At the national level, we identified several initiatives to enhance civil society organisations and media cooperation including establishing ongoing dialogue platforms, developing joint capacity building initiatives, building trust, addressing mutual security concerns online and offline, and mitigating risks.
We will engage with other actors including academia, professional associations, young people, and state institutions, to cultivate a broader understanding and appreciation of the role of civil society and media in a democratic society.
We pledge to continue collaborating towards ensuring a safe and enabling space for civil society and media in East Africa.
[The civil society and media leaders were convened for a two- day strategic workshop hosted by the Civil Society Reference Group, a Kenyan coalition whose role is to protect and enhance an independent and effective civil society voice and agency for public benefit, and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), a US-based organisation that has provided technical expertise on laws that govern civil society in over 100 countries worldwide and more than 20 in Africa.]
20 Feb. 18 Nairobi, Kenya:
The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya welcomes the news that human rights defender Aloys Habimana was released from the custody of the Service National de Renseignements (SNR – National Intelligence Services) in Burundi on Monday 19 February 2018.
Aloys was arrested on Saturday,17th February 2018 near the border of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Front Line Defenders, he was detained by the Service National de Renseignements (SNR – National Intelligence Services) in Bujumbura for two days without access to counsel. This is contrary to regional and international human rights mechanisms that prohibit arbitrary arrest, right to freedom of movement, the right to liberty and security of person.
“Human rights defenders’ fraternity in the region was deeply concerned with the safety and wellbeing of Aloys while in custody considering that SNR has been responsible for numerous arrests, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and political opponents in Burundi,’ said Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Kenya while welcoming the news of Aloys’ release from custody.
Aloys Habimana is a well known among human rights defenders in the Africa region because of his timely response to those at risk. Aloys is Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinator for East and Southern Africa, an Irish based human rights organization that supports and protects human rights defenders at risk around the world. Aloys has worked with Front Line Defenders since 2012
The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders reminds East Africa states of their commitment to free movement of people across the region and call on authorities in Burundi to cease targeting of human rights defenders. Human Rights Defenders should be able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and restrictions as decreed by the ‘UN Declaration on Human rights Defenders’, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/53/144 of 8 March 1998.
For further information contact:
Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya (NCHRD-K); email@example.com; Tel; +254712632390
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya (NCHRD-K) is a national organization established in 2007 and incorporated in the Republic of Kenya as a Trust. NCHRD-K mission is to strengthen the capacity of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to work effectively in the country and to reduce their vulnerability to the risk of persecution.
Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance by enabling the participation of voters to select leaders to represent them within the government and ensures the responsiveness of democratic governments to the will of the people. Elections also reinforce the stability and legitimacy of the political community thus facilitating social and political integration. Participation in an election serves to underpin the rights of citizens to have their voices heard. However, this is not always attained as restrictions may be initiated to limit fundamental rights that deny citizens a free, fair, credible and peaceful election.
Election monitors and observers play an important role in enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance. Human Rights Defenders (that include election monitors, observers, journalists and other civil society actors) continue to be at the forefront in advancing the civil and political rights of citizens by safeguarding the right of citizens to participate in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to be elected and access public services.
Get more information in the booklet: NCHRD-K Elections Monitoring Interim Report
The Government has been told to secure the observers and journalists who will be will be monitoring the August 8 General Election. The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD-K) decried harassment of the civil society and the fourth estate during the party primaries and ongoing campaigns, despite the groups playing a critical role. According to a report released by the NCHRD-K yesterday, 13 cases of intimidation of human rights defenders, monitors and journalists have been reported since April.