NEWS from AfricanDefenders| September & October 2020


34 years ago, Africa’s first continent-wide human rights instrument came into effect. The Banjul Charter promotes and protects human rights and peoples’ rights as well as basic freedoms in the African continent. To commemorate this important day, AfricanDefenders shared how the organisation promotes and protects human rights and works to contribute to the African Union goals of “Silencing the Guns” in Africa!

More from the Secretariat


  • AfricanDefenders attended the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net) sixth hybrid Focal Point meeting. Hassan Shire, the Chairperson of AfricanDefenders, opened the meeting with a keynote address in which he noted the importance of psychosocial care for HRDs, and applauded the work of women HRDs in Sudan, the bravery of LGBTI+ Africans and HRDs, and activists working on extremely sensitive issues like high-level corruption, extractives industries, land, and environmental concerns;

  • In the meeting, the AfricanDefenders coordinator, Joseph Bikanda, moderated a discussion on the Plan of Action for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the sub-region. We also launched our 2019 joint annual report!
  • AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders joined over 300 non-governmental organisations across the world in calling on the United Nations mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations and take decisive actions to achieve this goal in an open letter;
  • Together with 31 other civil society organisations and 89 human rights experts, we released a statement highlighting that the case brought by human rights activist and lawyer Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu serves as an opportunity for Nigeria’s judiciary to reinforce the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and civic participation;

Chidi Odinkalu

  • Together with Scholar at Risk and the African Studies Association, we issued a letter to Ghanaian officials, urging them to direct the appropriate authorities to withdraw or otherwise reconsider the Public University Bill 2020 in order to ensure full respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, as recognized in the Ghanaian constitution and applicable domestic and international law;
  • October, youth in Nigeria set out for protests to call for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)unit of the Nigeria Police Force, as part of the push for reforms in the police system to put an end to the extra-judicial activities of the agency. The protests resulted in the special unit being disbanded;
Learn more about #ENDSARS

October, youth in Nigeria set out for protests to call for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)unit of the Nigeria Police Force, as part of the push for reforms in the police system to put an end to the extra-judicial activities of the agency. The protests resulted in the special unit being disbanded. However, Nigerians wanted more concrete reforms and continued protesting. The authorities responded with the use of excessive force and on 20 October, the Nigerian army opened fire on peaceful protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. The authorities have yet to disclose the number of casualties from the incident

  • It is from this background that AfricanDefenders and 37 other civil society organisations have called on the Nigerian authorities to respect the freedom of assembly of the citizens of Nigeria.  

  • In September, AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders launched several online campaigns to highlight the work of activists and their organisations`
Explore the campaigns

  • Promoting and protecting human rights can be stressful and dangerous, making HRDs particularly vulnerable to stress and other mental health challenges. On World Mental Health Day, AfricanDefenders’ and DefendDefenders’ well-being lead, Karis Oteba, shared how HRDs can better take care of their psychosocial wellbeing;

Listen to him

  • As the borders have started opening up in the continent, we have resumed external relocation of HRDs in some of the regions. Considerations for external relocation are made based on the assessment of how safe the process will be for the HRD and their health as well as the guidelines in both the origin and host country;
  • 11 applications for support, 3 accepted, 7 under review and 1 rejected;
  • AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders operationalised the annual East Africa Women Human Rights Defenders Network
Operationalisation of EAWHRDN

Assisting in establishing the network’s first steering committee and committee guidelines;

Facilitating engagement with United Nations and African Union special mechanisms to better understand the intervention mechanisms that exist for WHRDs at risk; and

Facilitating the Network’s first annual meeting.

Meetings and Webinars
  • The final session of European Union Temporary Relocation Platform meetings to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on relocation and grant programmes for HRDs;
  • The Martin Roth Initiative digital event themed “Defending Human Rights, Promoting Artistic Freedom: Research and Practice of Temporary International Relocation Initiatives” where weshared our experience with the restrictions on repatriation during COVID-19 and how we facilitate HRDs with development of sustainability plans through our local partner organisations;
  • The 1st Annual International Conference on Ethnic Conflict Prevention using Early Warning Mechanism in Sub-Saharan Africa. We shared AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders experience in protection of HRDs working in conflict zones, highlighting the importance of supporting them to facilitate the peace process; and
  • The United Nations General Assembly side event on Final warnings: Death Threats against HRDs. The event was organised by the special rapporteur on HRDs, Mary Lawlor, in order to understand the threats that human rights defenders face and come up with solutions to mitigate these threats before the defenders are killed.




From our members

 North Africa

  • The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies published the following statements:
  • Egypt: Government must stop arbitrary arrests and respect freedom of expression;
  • Algeria: Intensifying crackdown on civil society and journalists amidst COVID-19 pandemic and before referendum a danger to free speech and public health; and
  • Algeria: Arbitrary detention of journalist Khaled Drareni another blow to democratic transition, discrediting the Presidency’s promise of reform


East and Horn of Africa

  • Meet DefendDefenders HRD of the month; Onesmo Olenguro!
  • Read Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition statement on the permanent disbarment of advocate Fatuma Karume; and
  • Check out Defenders Coalition- Kenya’s new E-library

 Southern Africa

  • Following the killing of environmental activist Fikile Ntshangase, the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network released a joint media statement calling for investigations into the murder;
  • Have you read SAHRDN’s latest Southern Africa Human Rights roundup?

Do Not miss!

  •  Equipe Media has made a documentary , “3 Stolen Cameras”, that explores how Saharawi journalists fight to keep their cameras to document human rights violations by the kingdom of Morocco in Western Sahara

Watch the documentary


Recommended reading

  • #EndSARS protests: Nigeria’s president could have prevented escalation of violence but poured oil on the fire through his silence; an Op-ed by Chidi Anselm Odinkalu and Abiodun Baiyewu;
  • Tanzania: Lawfare: Repression by Law Ahead Of Tanzania’s General Elections, a report by Amnesty International


For more information please contactt : [email protected]