Security for human rights defenders in East Africa

In some East African states, the freedom of action of non-governmental organisations has shrunk radically alongside political crises, and defending human rights has even become fatal.

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) promotes the safety of human rights defenders in the area of East Africa and the Horn of Africa. KIOS financed the network in 2006–2016, almost from the start of the network. During that time, the network has grown into one of the region’s most influential and highly esteemed human rights organisations.

KIOS’ support for DefendDefenders focused predominantly on supporting human rights defenders from Burundi and Rwanda. In both countries, human rights defenders not only received security training, but also training on advocacy work and using the international human rights system.

Under the guise of a domestic political crisis which has continued since spring 2015, the state of Burundian civil society has been reduced to almost non-existence. Nevertheless, KIOS has been able to support the monitoring and documentation competence of Burundian human rights activists, for example, through DefendDefenders.

Burundian human rights activists have been able to continue their work from exile. With the help of KIOS funding, DefendDefenders has supported Burundian refugees in performing UN-level advocacy work related to severe human rights violations in the country. It contributed to the UN establishing an independent Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in September 2016.

The vital work of DefendDefenders to protect human rights defenders continues now with the help of other, larger funders.