Going to great heights: From Mt. Longonot to Kilimanjaro to call for justice

Thursday, September 17th, 2020 11:24 | By

A leading human rights lobby group has embarked on a journey to climb the tallest mountain in Africa to call for justice and respect of human rights in Kenya.

Last weekend, the campaign attracted 80 supporters who trekked the scenic Elephant Hill in the Aberdare Ranges in Nyandarua County, with a hiking trail that covers a distance of 18 kilometers round trip to the summit and back to the starting point.

The lobby, through its campaign dubbed Climb for Justice, has organized hiking activities in different destinations in Kenya for the past one year call to action against human rights violations in the country.

The campaign that was launched in 2019 August to raise funds to a tune of Sh50 million and for setting up a safety, research, networking, creativity, training and wellness hub for rights activists in Kenya who confront risky obstacles in their day-to-day work of advocating a human rights-based communities and country.

“The advancement of human rights by frontline rights defenders can only be sustained objectively if the champions are respected, skills enhanced and accorded the support that they deserve,” Salome Nduta, Head of Programs-Defenders Coalition noted.

5.6 Million shillings raised

According to figures on the lobby’s website, the campaign has raised Sh5.6 million within the first year, majority of which has come from members of the public.

“We are thankful of the hundreds of supporters who have sacrificed their resources to contribute to the cause. We have been able to cumulatively raise 10% of the target and will seek to intensify efforts to bring the campaign to a close sooner,” Salome added.

At a time when civil society organizations are facing fierce criticism from the pro-government-turned opposition politicians, systematic weakening by government regulations and sudden shrinking of support from international development partners, the initiative proposes invaluable hope for justice and sustainability for the civic space.

Violations amplified

In a period that has seen character of arbitrary arrests and criminalization of offences that are not criminal in nature by security agencies, Salome terms the figure cause as timely and that needs support now more than ever.

“Covid-19 pandemic has augmented the reprisals that rights defenders have to face time and again. The stiff restrictions by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Kenya exposed rights defenders to untold suffering. Many were stuck with unwelcoming relatives, lost their sources of livelihoods and exposed to new dangers due to their documentation of human rights violations within their communities,” she said.

Figures from the Defenders Coalition and seen by People Daily point at an escalation of  human rights violations and limitation of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms during the Covid pandemic.

In 2020 alone, the lobby has documented a total of 104 acts by State security agents that directly maim the right to assemble peacefully to present petitions to public officials as provided by Article 37 of the constitution.

“This is a 275 per cent increase in the number of cases related to violation of the freedom of assembly compared to last year’s number of 38. The trend is worrying and must be challenged urgently.”

According to the figures, the National Police Service and Director of Criminal Investigations officers are the most notorious in curtailing the constitutional gains made within the past four decades  which were characterized by torture, police brutality, extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances of vocal activists.

The organization has successfully organized six other hiking activities which have equally attracted 446 climbers in Mt Longonot, William Hill-Keraita, Kudu Hills, Eburru Forest, Ngong hills and summiting the third tallest peak on Mount Kenya in December 2019, with the oldest climber being 69 year-old James Mburu- a land rights activist from Kakuzi area in Muranga County.

One-step a bob

 The campaign is creatively aiming to raise funds by calling on well-wishers to support climbers’ steps by donating a shilling for every step that climbers make when hiking.

The initiative aims to bring together 30 climbers who will embark on a 5-day expedition of the tallest Mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, in December 2020.

It approximates that each climber will make 140,000 steps going up to the highest peak on the mountain- Point Uhuru- and down.

Through the lobby’s estimates, climbers will make a cumulative total of 4.2 million steps thus aim to raise Sh4.2 million.

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