Celebrating Hussein Khalid

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So 10th December 2016 is Human Rights Day! It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was in 1950 that the United Nation’s Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
What strikes my mind (my heart included) is this year’s Human Rights Day theme that calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights! It has elicited my feelings to think of someone I know who have several times stood up for others rights. It is true to note that many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Violations and disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears as our humane values continue to be under attack.

However there is one person who has stood the test of time. He has been able to stand for the rights of the marginalized and less fortunate in times that most of us have been cowed to silence. He has risked his life several times. Beaten by the police and locked in umpteenth time. All in the bid to crush his spirits and resolve. He has reminded us several times on the need to reaffirm our common humanity wherever we are. He has made a real difference in the lives of many. He is Hussein Khalid, the Executive Director of HAKI Africa.
While others are attracted to human rights work based on the fat cheque that comes with it or use it as a springboard to political career, Hussein Khalid has been in it for pure passion and the ultimate goal of having a Kenyan society devoid of poverty and all forms of marginalization and where each person has an equal opportunity to participate in self-development.
He has been able to build a team of young dedicated human rights activists that he has overtime nurtured and mentored. Today it is not possible to speak about human rights without mentioning the name Hussein Khalid. Today various organization within and without coast region exist courtesy of his contribution. It is through the team and individuals that he has been able to bring up that we can enjoy the little change we have so far.

You may talk of HAKI Africa, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Angaza Empowerment Network, Human Rights Agenda[HURIA], Haki Centre, Coast Education Center – COEC to name but a few as some of the organization that he has had a footprint on. Love him or hate him, he has made a tremendous contribution in the fight for human rights and civil liberties in the country. He has been labelled different names including being called a terrorists sympathizer for his insistence in adhering to the rule of law. He has been at the forefront in fighting extra judicial killings and disappearance. This has always come at a cost. Remember when the Garissa University Terrorist attack occurred, his organization’s accounts were the first to be frozen by the State.

When Hassan Omar term and other commissioners at the KNCHR came to an end, I was sure that he will be appointed as one of the commissioners at what used to be the prestigious Human Rights institutions in the country so as to continue the legacy of Maina Kiai, Khelef Khalifa, and Hassan Omar Hassan. For lack of a person with the caliber of Hussein Khalid, the institution has remained a lame duck that has confined itself to boardroom meetings, twitter and ‘policy statements.

Several times he has been accused of being anti-government, but the answer to this is simple! In healthy democracies like ours, governments are enormously powerful and thus if left unchecked it can trample on our rights. This power wielded by the government in various occasions has always not been put into good use. And it’s those least able to fight back – those with the quietest voices such as the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor – who get trampled on. It is through realization of this fact that under the Kenyan 2010 constitution, there is a bill of rights that protects people’s basic fundamental rights.

Because standing up for human rights is about tackling injustice and righting wrongs. It’s about defending free speech, fighting for the rights of victims of crime, protecting the dignity of the sick and the elderly. This is why the violators of these rights will always fight back. Perhaps it’s the reason that Haki Africa has been denied registration to date.
This however has not deterred Hussein Khalid from fighting for the rights of the less privileged and society at large. It is for this reasons that we should be motivated wherever we are, whether it’s in the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media… to stand up and fight for the rights of others. The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand for rights. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.

It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.
Long Live Hussein Khalid and God bless you!

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