Dolan honoured in the UK for his human rights work in Kenya

Father Gabriel Dolan receives an award from President Michael Higgins at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin in Northern Ireland. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Mombasa-based Catholic priest, Father Gabriel Dolan, has been honoured with a presidential distinguished service award. 

Dolan, a regular contributor on current affairs in The Standard, received his award from President Michael Higgins, at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin in Northern Ireland.

Dolan is a member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society, commonly called the Kiltegan Fathers because of their founding base in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow. He was born in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

The awards are presented each year in recognition of outstanding achievements by Irish people living abroad. 

His award was in the category of Peace, Reconciliation and Development, recognising his more than 40 years work as a missionary in Kenya and human rights defender.

“I am humbled and honoured to receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Award. Among this year’s group, I am the only person serving in Africa, and the only priest or religious person,” Fr Dolan said.

He added that the award is a tribute to the great colleagues and human rights defenders he had the privilege of working alongside for the past four decades. 

“I dedicate the award to those heroes, and the suffering people of Palestine, “ he stated. 

Dolan was educated at Cashelnadrea Primary School, St Michael’s College, Enniskillen, and University College Cork. 

He was ordained priest in 1982 and sent to Kenya, where he was posted initially to the remote arid northern region of Turkana that had endured severe famine during the previous three years.

He was moved to the Diocese of Kitale where, with a vision of a people being free of poverty, violence, ignorance and oppression, he founded the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.

The organisation became an important vehicle through which the people could voice their concerns about the dire conditions in the region.

Later, he moved on to Mombasa, where he has ministered since 2008 to-date. 

In Mombasa, he pioneered the establishment of a human rights organisation, Haki Yetu, which advocates for the rights of marginalised communities in informal settlements. 

Haki Yetu is known for defending vulnerable, landless people and victims of forced evictions and historical land injustices.

It also advocates for gender inequality and works on behalf of the rights of survivors of gender-based violence, as well as older persons accused of witchcraft.

In 2021, Dolan published a book - Undaunted: Stories of Freedom in a Shackled Society - which is a scathing indictment of Kenyan society and its political leaders after colonisation. 

The book recalls his decades as a human rights defender and activist and chronicles his time and experiences working to advance rights to land, housing, shelter, and freedom of speech for marginalised communities in Kenya.

He documents various cases of housing rights violations and outright theft of public land by greedy politicians. 

Misean Cara Chief Executive Officer John Moffett, who has been supporting Dolan’s work since 2013, said the priest is a passionate human rights activist. 

“He believes that the poor and marginalised can liberate themselves if given the space, time, and opportunity to organise themselves into powerful change movements.

“With over four decades in Kenya, Fr Dolan has worked to stimulate and support transformative change from the bottom up intent on giving marginalised groups voice, dignity and hope as they strive for good governance, social justice, peaceful co-existence, and transformational change in their lives and communities,”  said Moffet.

Dolan was the recipient of the annual Law Society of Kenya Fr Kaiser Human Rights Award in 2004 for his defence of the rule of law and human rights. He was presented with the award by former Vice President Moody Awori.

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