Kenya rights defender says why he quit

May 21, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21 – Hassan Omar Hassan now says that internal wrangles and bureaucracy within the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) led to his resignation as vice chairman.

Mr Hassan who quit the position on Thursday but chose to stay on as a Commissioner, said he had taken several weeks to consult widely before taking the decision.

The human rights campaigner told a news conference on Friday that bureaucracy at the State-funded watchdog was impeding its performance.

“People come here with all kinds of intellectual arguments about bureaucracy and they just use it to stop the train from rolling until they create a jam,” Mr Hassan complained adding that the rights body owed allegiance to Kenyans and the law establishing KNCHR should be the guiding principle.

He accused some unnamed officials at the commission of undermining efforts to establish a human rights defenders programme and witness protection programme.

“The commission has never undertaken any witness protection programme until this present one and nobody who has been killed was under the protection of the commission… never… and then we go into a stream of trivialities,” he said.

Mr Hassan said he would not allow any of the commissioners to hold him at ransom and manipulate him because they elected him as their vice chairman, and claimed that some of the commissioners had been threatening to vote him out of the position.

“You can have the seat, I was not born with the vice chairman tag, I have come here to serve Kenyans!” he scoffed.

Mr Hassan had on Thursday told Capital News that he wanted to concentrate on core human rights work which he had been unable to do since the vice chairman’s position was too administrative.

“Whenever there is a major issue at a personal cost you will find me addressing a press conference alone with maybe two other commissioners. Do you think I don’t have a family?” he posed.

He however maintained that he would not resign as a commissioner because he wanted to continue serving Kenyans.

 “Some people I have worked with have never spoken against evil…never…how can you be in a human rights commission and not speak against evil and then when others speak about it you want to contain them? It is unfair,” he said. 

There have been open differences between Mr Hassan and KNCHR chairperson Florence Jaoko. At one point she placed an advert in the local newspapers dismissing comments made by Mr Hassan over leakage of witness information as personal.

“There has been some imagination or perception that has been created that Florence and I have had a difficult working relationship but I want to say that we have had a fairly good relationship. It doesn’t mean that it has been a bed of roses throughout but most of the time we have had a good working relationship,” he said.


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