Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has challenged human rights defenders in the country to contest for political positions and wrestle political power from “barons who are taking us nowhere”.
Mr Mutunga said that time has come for the human right activists to seek elective positions and use them to “fight from within” for the better of the country instead of complaining that politics is a dirty game as they watch the country being “looted”.
He said that the greatest defence that human rights defenders can ever get is by contesting for political power and not being neutral to the oppression and the kind of political leadership Kenya has.
“I know a lot of you still believe in political non-partisanship but you cannot be neutral in this country to the oppression and the kind of political leadership that we have. But the greatest defence we will ever get as human rights defenders is when you contest for political power.
“That is the way to go. You cannot keep on saying politics is dirty, resources are being stolen when you have no way of stopping it. Who will make it clean?” posed Dr Mutunga.
He was speaking on Tuesday night at Serena Hotel in Nairobi during the launch of the "Climb for Justice Campaign", an initiative of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.
The campaign aims to raise Sh50 million to establish a centre of excellence, Haki Centre, as a permanent home for human rights defenders in the country to advance and expand rights for all Kenyans.
The mission will run from this month to December 31 and will involve climbing various mountains in the country including Mt Longonot, Ngong Hills, Aberdare Ranges and Mt Kenya.
“The mission will offer an opportunity for all Kenyans to be part of cementing human rights into the country’s national culture. It also highlights the critical but often difficult work of human rights defenders,” said Kamau Ngugi, the executive director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya.
Dr Mutunga hailed the activists as the people who will liberate the country and become the bridge for the voiceless and the youth.
“It is up to you young people to basically contest for power as quickly as possible and wrestle the political power from the barons who are taking us nowhere,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris who decried how the rights of women, children and the elderly are being threatened every day.
She said that human rights defenders have stood firm in the fight for the defenceless.
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“Politics has taken this country to a bad place. It is politics that will probably take us back to the right place but it cannot take us there without a vibrant, united association of human rights defenders and the civil society,” said Ms Passaris.
Speaking at the same function, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua decried how human rights defenders are still losing their lives and being harassed even with the promulgation of a new Constitution in 2010.
The former Gichugu MP said a culture of fear reminiscent of the dark, old days is creeping back into the society at a time when people need to be bolder, adding that it is the activists who are now being looked up to to defend the voiceless.
“We have seen human rights defenders not only being harassed but losing their lives. It happened in the Moi and Kibaki eras and it is still happening even in this era of the new dispensation,” said Ms Karua.