Global civil society alliance CIVICUS, has called on authorities in Kenya to urgently investigate the death of a woman rights defender.
The body of activist Caroline Mwatha Ochieng was discovered almost a week after she had been reported missing on 6 February 2019.
Mwatha Ochieng worked as a case worker for the Dandora Community Social Justice Centre, a grassroots community movement which she co-founded. The Centre documents cases and advocates against extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances, which have been commonly reported in the Dandora area, an eastern low-income suburb of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. It advocates strongly for security sector reforms and police accountability. The organisation also documents threats made against witnesses of extra-judicial killings.
After her disappearance, international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) raised the alarm, calling on officials to speedily to find her. Of key concern had been that Mwatha Ochieng’s colleagues told media after she went missing that she had recently received several threats allegedly by police officers and that, because of its work, the NGO did not enjoy good relations with the police.
“We are saddened by the passing on of Caroline Mwatha Ochieng a vocal activist whose outstanding work is well-known in the Dandora community,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy lead.
“As Kenya has no specific laws for the protection of human rights defenders, we urge Kenyan authorities to implement specific laws or policies guided by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,” said Kode.
“We further call for speedy and objective investigations into the matter,” he said.
CIVICUS has expressed solidarity with the Dandora Community Social Justice Centre and conveyed condolences to Mwatha Ochieng’s family.
CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries around the world, rates the space for civil society in Kenya as obstructed.
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