Nyokabi, championing the right to know

September 23, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 23 – Sunday September 28 is International Freedom of Information day.
In Kenya, media practitioners, human rights organisations and other stakeholders have organised weeklong events that kicked off on Monday to highlight local challenges on access to information.

At the forefront of the renewed push for debate on the stalled Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, is 30-year-old Priscilla Nyokabi, the Acting Director of International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya Chapter.

She took up the position after former ICJ director George Kegoro was appointed Secretary to the Waki Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. Despite her youth, Nyokabi has taken the challenge with vigour, putting the campaign for the FOI Bill top on her agenda.
Nyokabi spoke to Capital News on her challenging job and the passion for access to information.

“It’s been challenging but I have done enough to rise up to the occasion,” she proudly beams. “I had taken the role of leadership even before George (Kegoro) left; I was leading the project on Freedom of Information (FOI), so the appointment was just to step up into administration and lead a team,” adds Nyokabi.

She easily admits to having fears initially, but says she has now fallen into step and is in fact hoping to be confirmed as director.

Q. What motivates you in your job?
A. First, the idea of leadership; giving others the direction to follow on issues that touch on democracy, law and the struggle for human rights. Especially now that Kenya suffered the post election violence, there is a lot to be done, like upholding the utmost role of being the public’s watchdog and ensuring bills to promote human rights are passed.

I also meet many new people such as lawmakers and I’m encouraged by the fact that I am able to convince them with my proposals.

Q. What challenges do you face?
A. I am very busy as I have to be in and out of meetings in which I have to be very attentive in order to sell my idea and convince even the most stubborn people, mainly on protection of human rights.

ICJ’s role to protect human rights is sometimes ignored by lawmakers. This requires me to hassle to ensure laws are made in respect to human rights.

Q. Since you assumed your new role at ICJ, what do you aim to achieve?
A. The goal is to protect human rights, but now more than ever I will put a lot of pressure, together with my team, to ensure Freedom of Information is legislated. To date, it is difficult to get information from government offices, and I believe FOI is the only way we can promote democracy and accountability in the country.

Q. What would you describe as your greatest achievement as Acting Director of ICJ?
A. Firstly, I am happy that I have maintained the active role of ICJ, but most of all, on September 9, I was elected the Deputy Presiding Officer of the African Union Economic Cultural Council. This gives me an opportunity to fight for the rights of the continent.

Q. What is your clarion call for the Freedom of Information Week?
A. I am calling upon the media, stakeholders and members of the public to support the freedom of information week. Information is very vital and without this, the government will continue holding information unnecessarily. We need to push for the publication of the FOI Bill.


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