Human rights guardians feted, ahead of Day of Human Rights celebrations

Anastacia Nambo (left) of Mombasa county and Is'hag Abubakar of Lamu County celebrate after both winning the Human Rights Defender of the Year 2018 during the Human Rights Defenders Awards 2018 at the Belgium Embassy in Nairobi [Photo: Elvis Ogina.Standard]

A panel of eminent Kenyans chaired by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has honoured rights activist Okiya Omtatah with a Lifetime Achivement award.

Omtatah also scooped the Popular Vote award in the annual ceremony organised by National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya and the Working Group on Human Defenders.

Anastacia Nambo and Is’shaq Abubakar were this year’s biggest winners when they were awarded the 2018 Human Rights Defender of the year award at a ceremony held at the residence of the Belgium ambasador on Friday.

Ms Nambo from Mombasa is a mother, a preacher and an avid advocate of environmental rights. She started her human rights work in 2009 when the Metal Refinery was established in the Uhuru Owino slums.

The adverse effects of the metal refinery led to active advocacy and lobbying by Nambo and her community.

Threats and attacks

Their struggle bore fruit in 2014 when the refinery was closed. She has endured verbal attacks, threats through texts and attempts to break into her home and had to seek refuge in Uganda.

Is’shaq, a public relations manager working with indigenous communities in Lamu, is a human rights defender on environmental rights issues.

He co-founded Save Lamu, an umbrella of CBOs established in Lamu in the onset of the Lapsset project. Save Lamu teaches the community on the environmental impact of the Lapset project and seeks legal redress for the locals.

His work has earned him threats and police harassment which he has overcome through strategic partnerships with mainstream organisations like the NCHRD, Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

Receiving his award, he said it will legitimise his work and encourage other human rights advocates in Lamu. Christine Kandie won the Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year award.

Kandie fights for the land rights of Endorois women and is the programme’s officer for the Endorois Welfare Council(EWC). She represented her community at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) session in 2011.

Extraordinary work

The objective of the award is to honour extraordinary work of human rights defenders who face a myriad of challenges in their calling. 

“The award ceremony is a special occasion for these courageous individuals who do excellent work within our community,” said National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Executive Director Kanau Ngugi. Belgium Ambassador to Kenya Nicolas Nihon said his country strongly believes in human rights as a corner stone for democracy.