Rights at Risk: COVID-19 and the Rights of People with Disabilities in Kenya

Rights at Risk: COVID-19 and the Rights of People with Disabilities in Kenya

By: Guest Contributors Shubham Airi* and Sarah Ayreen Mir* Towards mid-2020, disabled persons' organizations surveyed 312 persons with disabilities in Kenya and Bangladesh to understand the effects of COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. More than 90% of respondents in Kenya reported their daily lives had been impacted by the virus. They singled out factors such as unavailability of vital necessities, limited transport facilities, restricted movement, social alienation, decreased earnings, and loss of employment. In Bangladesh, all those polled alleged that COVID had changed their lives for the worse. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threatens to be a stumbling block in the international community's efforts towards delivering the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly for the marginalized groups, especially persons with disabilities. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kenya in early 2020, the government instituted safety precautions and protocols. Since then, people with disabilities across the country have struggled with sticking to the safety protocols and understanding COVID-related information. The blatant disparities in guidance...
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COVID-19 in Africa: Responses and Prospect for Recovery

COVID-19 in Africa: Responses and Prospect for Recovery

By Lindsey Alpaugh, staff writer, RightsViews, Human Rights MA student.  On Wednesday, January 27th, Columbia University held an event examining the impact of COVID-19 on the African continent. Panelists included Belinda Archibong, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Barnard College, Pedro Conceicao, the director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the Human Development Report, UNDP HDR office, and Dr. Wilmot James, Senior Research Scholar in the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy. This event followed a series in the fall looking at COVID-19 in Latin America and was sponsored by the Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA, the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University, Center for Development Economics and Policy, and SIPA Pan-African Network. African countries were able to have a significantly smaller first wave than predicted due to the dramatic measures that countries took to prevent the spread, such as closing schools and limiting travel. While this had a very successful impact on combatting the...
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Sudan: On the Path to Transition?

Sudan: On the Path to Transition?

By Reem Katrib, a RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program. After a 30-year conflict over its autonomy, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan through a referendum in 2011. The Enough Project explains that this secession “caused a severe economic shock in Sudan, as the country lost nearly 75 percent of its oil reserves and 95 percent of its foreign currency reserves.” Since then, the Sudanese government has repressed political opposition, often using violence against civil society and opposition groups who have expressed their dissent at the mismanagement of the economy.  Prior to secession, Sudan had been plagued by conflict with continuing human rights violations that has meant a distrust of the judiciary in the present. In April 2019, a military council replaced Omar al-Bashir when he was forced out of office. The military leaders and opposition members negotiated to form a “sovereign council” the following August. This council acts  as a transitional government and...
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Non-Violence in Communal War in Central Nigeria

Non-Violence in Communal War in Central Nigeria

By James Courtright, Staff Writer for RightsViews On January 30th Dr. Jana Krause came to speak with students and faculty at Columbia’s School for International and Public Affairs about her new book, “Resilient Communities: Non-Violence and Civilian Agency in Communal War.” Her work centers on communal conflict - non-state armed conflict between identity groups - in Plateau state in Nigeria and Maluku province in Indonesia. In both places the violence tended to be simplistically referred to as Christian against Muslim, but upon further investigation she found it was deeply rooted in local political and economic dynamics and narratives. After explaining how communal violence was organized, she then delved into neighborhoods in Nigeria and Indonesia where violence did not occur, analyzing how the choices of civilians and their collective efforts to prevent fighting saved the lives of hundreds of people. Conflict in Jos When she first visited Jos, Nigeria in 2010, Dr. Krause had to pass through multiple checkpoints along the road from the...
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Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations…But What About Justice? An Interview with Nana-Jo Ndow

Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations…But What About Justice? An Interview with Nana-Jo Ndow

RightsView contributor James Courtright recently sat down with Nana-Jo Ndow to discuss Gambia’s transitional justice process. For 22 years, Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia through widespread corruption, repression of media, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. He was voted out of office in December of 2016, and fled after a political impasse at the end of January 2017. At the beginning of this year the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) began hearing testimony in The Gambia from victims and perpetrators of Jammeh’s regime.  The interview has been edited for clarity. Can you introduce yourself? My name is Nana-Jo Ndow and to put it simply I like to say I’m from Ghana - Gambia – UK. My Dad was a business man, he went wherever there was opportunity.  What brought you to human rights work? I had a father who was very into human rights and politics, so we’d always have debates and conversations. I volunteered with Amnesty International about 12 years ago in London....
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LGBTIQ rights |Recent developments in Kenya

LGBTIQ rights |Recent developments in Kenya

Guest contributor Brian Dan Migowe is a graduate of the 18' LL.M class at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK.  July 2019 marks a month since the Kenyan High Court dismissed a consolidated petition of the National Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (‘NGLHRC’) and other interested parties seeking inter alia abolishment of sections 162(a),(c) and 165 of the Kenyan penal code, which forbid same-sex relations and prescribe a jail sentence of up to 14 years for those found guilty. A long-awaited pronouncement, the NGLHRC’s challenge to the constitutional standing of these two legal provisions has been a subject before the court for the last quadrennium. Petitions have come to the court on two separate occasions. The first petition was initiated by Eric Gitari (then the Executive Director of NGLHRC) in 2016. Two other organizations, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (‘GALCK’) and the Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Kenya Network...
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Gemfields’ Quest for Conflict Rubies in Nthoro, Mozambique

Gemfields’ Quest for Conflict Rubies in Nthoro, Mozambique

If you’re thinking of purchasing rubies in the New Year, you might want to reconsider purchasing any cardinal gem sourced from Mozambique. In 2011, a “poor and illiterate” farmer in Mozambique discovered a precious red gemstone, creating a “ruby rush.” This find made the country one of the world’s largest ruby producers. However, due to the rarity of rubies, according to the World Bank, land rights within Mozambique are a contentious issue, where ill-informed citizens are coerced into land grabs by government officials and influential corporations to mine rubies. As a central place for exceptional quality rubies, Gemfields Limited, a mining corporation that specializes in the mining and marketing of gems, wanted copious blood-red coloured gemstones from Mozambique. In 2011, Montepuez Ruby Mine (MRM), a subsidiary of Gemfields Limited, won the mining rights to 36,000 hectares of ruby-rich land in Nthoro, Mozambique. This created horrendous human rights violations on the local level. Having promised to relocate victims after winning mining...
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LGBTQ Rights in a Global Perspective

LGBTQ Rights in a Global Perspective

On November 12, Pepe Julian Onziema spoke to attendees of an event focusing on “LGBTQ+ Rights in a Global Perspective,” moderated by Professor Katherine Franke of Columbia Law School and the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. Onziema, who is from Uganda, is currently a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia. He is an outspoken activist for LGBTQ Rights in Uganda and is the Programs Director of the non-profit organization “Sexual Minorites Uganda” (SMUG). His talk was centered around the history of LGBTQ persecution, as well as activism, in Uganda and the role that SMUG has played in making changes for acceptance and policy change. Giving some initial background on Ugandan LGBTQ history, Onziema explained that Uganda was colonized by the British and since 1894 male same-sex relations have been illegal—for females, it was made illegal more recently, in 2000. Further entrenching the criminalization of LGBTQ identity, the Uganda Constitution was amended in 2005 to...
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When Political Transitions Work: Reconciliation as Interdependence

When Political Transitions Work: Reconciliation as Interdependence

South Africa’s transition from apartheid to multi-racial democracy and subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are often held up as a gold standard to be replicated by countries emerging for civil war or dictatorship. While recognizing the importance of elections, forgiveness, and truth, Fanie du Toit, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, and Virginie Ladisch, head of the Children and Youth program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, sought to challenge audience members to complicate our narrative of the political transition and reconciliation in South Africa and why and how it has and hasn’t worked. In the popular imagination South Africa’s racially segregationist apartheid regime was brought to an end by democratic elections in 1994. Following the seemingly superhuman leadership of Nelson Mandela, South Africans forgave each other for the crimes of the past and agreed to build a future together. Ever since the TRC’s mandate ended in 1998 other countries transitioning...
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The Story of a Young Tunisian Mother’s Struggle for Safety

The Story of a Young Tunisian Mother’s Struggle for Safety

By Izzy Tomico Ellis, a journalist and activist who has been heavily involved in the refugee crisis since 2015. Additional reporting by Niamh Keady-Tabbal. Syrine* is sitting on the edge of a bed inside a tidy room for two, in City Plaza — a squatted hotel in Greece where solidarians from all over the world have flocked to bring respite to its refugee residents. Her little son started walking yesterday. In between our conversation, she holds out her hands to catch him as he falls down. Soothing him, she recalls, "I looked on Facebook to find out what to do when he was crying. I was alone with a baby…I didn’t know anything."  When we asked her if we could write down her story, she smiled, "I’ve thought about telling it a lot." The strength with which she carried herself had compelled me to ask, and at the same time made me worry she’d laugh. For her, a 21-year-old mother, bravery comes so naturally.  When we first met...
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