By: Chaminda Dilhanake Hettiarachchi, ICNC-SI Class of 2016
A presentation was made during ICNC Summer Institute 2016 by on June 22nd, 2016 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The presentation was made on the activities of Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and Humanity Activism Knowledge Integrity Africa (HAKI Africa) – two very effective and successful Human Rights NGOs based in Kenya. The presentations were delivered by Hassan, a Director of MUHURI and Hussein, a Director of HAKI Africa. As in the case of many other Human Rights organizations working in the developing countries, these two organizations have their own unique services and working structures to serve the beneficiaries they are focusing.
See also: Announcing the 2016 James Lawson Award
However, the most important aspect highlighted during the presentation was their creativity, innovation and bravery shown in their work under an oppressive regime. Both organizations face numerous cases of harassment, intimidation and suppression by the government in Kenya. Imposing restrictions based on terrorism laws, abductions, threats of deaths and the freezing of financial accounts are common tactics used by the government when the organizations were working to expose corruption, illegality and authoritarianism of politicians and government elite.
This documentary presents the powerful story of Lawson Award Winner MUHURI, that helps a local community in a Mombasa slum investigate corruption of local members of parliament, and take on the challenge of holding them accountable.
Both organizations have survived many of such assaults on them and have been very resilient in delivering their services to different stakeholders in Kenya. Both speakers were articulate on their strategies on relying on public support and international networks as ways of confronting powerful regimes, and even winning them over. The most striking characteristic of both organizations was the personal bravery and individual risks taken by the leaders and staff of both MUHURI and HAKI Africa, to remain focused on their cause of action. During the lively discussion, participants representing various civil society organizations around the world highly appreciated the work done, courage shown, and the commitments made by MUHURI and HAKI Africa show in improving the quality of life of average people in Africa, while proving an inspirational model for other civil society organizations to follow.