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Rights crusader who often meets police on wrong side of traffic

Sunday February 10 2019

Lawyer Harun Ndubi

Lawyer Harun Ndubi addresses the media outside the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Nairobi on December 28, 2018 on the arrest of lawyers Tom Ojienda and Peter Wanyama. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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In a recently released book titled Kenya’s Fallen Angels, Professor Peter Kagwanja has few kind words for members of civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in the country.

According to Prof Kagwanja, the CSOs have been employing crude strategies and tactics in a bid to undermine democracy and human rights.

He argues that, since 2007, the “small but vociferous wing of the civil society has manifestly allied itself to the criminal and corrupt cartels, publicly advocating violent strategies to capture power”. He further says that they have mobilised protests against institutions to paralyse society.

In the attack against the CSOs, Prof Kagwanja blames its luminaries for undermining the rule of law, institutions and the democracy.

This assertion is a bit controversial, however, in light of the contribution made by civil society groups to expand the democratic space and freedoms that Kenyans enjoy today.


Of special mention in the book is 52-year-old lawyer Harun Ndubi, who incidentally recently found himself on the wrong side of the law, and is currently facing a traffic offence.

Mr Ndubi was arrested on Sunday and charged the following day with two traffic offences.

The senior human rights lawyer was charged with failing to give way to a police rider thereby hitting the motorcycle, a Yamaha XI900 registration GKB891Q, and damaging it. He was released after posting cash bail.

It was not the first time the lawyer has been arrested in similar circumstances. In February last year, there were claims that police found him asleep in his car. There were two versions to it, with the police claiming that he was drunk while his friends and colleagues saying that he was drugged.

In the February 2018 matter, the combative lawyer was arrested on Jakaya Kikwete Road and was charged the following day with two counts relating to traffic offences. He was accused of failing to comply with instructions when he resisted a breathalyser test.


The police said he was drunk and causing obstruction after parking his vehicle in the middle of the road. He was arraigned in a Nairobi court where he denied the charge and was released on a cash bail of Sh30,000.

Together with lawyers allied to Kenyans for Peace with Justice and Truth, where he served a board member, Mr Ndubi filed scores of cases ahead of the 2017 General Election. The last of the cases was filed on the eve of the repeat poll on October 26 but the Supreme Court was hit by lack of quorum and the case fell through.

In an interview a few years back, the former student of St Mary’s School, Yala, said that he acquired his confidence while still in secondary school. He has fought several successful court battles on behalf of the CSOs.

In the process, the lawyer has distinguished himself as a human rights crusader, stepping up whenever the State threatens the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizenry.


The lawyer teamed up with several advocates when former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama was charged with incitement.

He was also present when Embakasi East MP Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino was arraigned. Ditto, when Makadara MP George Aladwa was arrested and also when charges were preferred against Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.

Although he has immersed himself so much into cases touching on the country’s politics, he said he has no plans of being a politician when asked about it recently, explaining that, in Kenya, it is all about greed for money.


Mr Ndubi was born and brought up at Nyainoga Village, West Mugirango in Nyamira county and joined Nyainoga Primary School where he did his CPE in 1980. He would later join St Mary's School, Yala in 1981 and did his O level examination of 1984.

He did his A level at Gendia High School, Kendu Bay in 1986, before joining the University of Nairobi in 1987, where he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in law in 1990.

He was admitted to the bar in 1991 and served as the Executive Director Kituo Cha Sheria, where he built capacity in pro bono legal services, alternative dispute resolution and public interest litigation.

In 2003, during the Goldenberg inquiry, the lawyer was chosen by the Law Society of Kenya to represent it and that is where he built a name for himself.

Prof Kagwanja asserts in his book that a lacuna in law and the regulatory ecosystem has allowed “civil society extremists” to undermine democracy, imperil security and human rights with total impunity.

So, when Prof Kagwanja says that, despite being a paltry minority, CSO leaders in the country enjoy the highest visibility, Mr Ndubi stands as a testament. He has come out robustly to defend many personalities and has no regrets about it.