The John Humphrey Laureate, Kenyan Timothy Njoya, called on Canada to bolster support for the thriving movement for 1 democracy in his country.
Montreal, 10 December, 2000 – The John Humphrey Laureate, Kenyan Timothy Njoya, called on Canada to bolster support for the thriving movement for true democracy in his country.
“I appeal to Canada to champion the cause of justice by being our ally,” Rev. Njoya said in a speech before a large audience at Montreal’s Union United Church. “I call upon the Canadian society to prevail upon the Canadian government to support our struggle to transform Africa’s centuries of dehumanisation into respectable and sustainable international standards of human worth.”
Reverend Njoya, a Presbyterian minister, is Chair of the Kenyan Centre of Governance and Development and this year’s winner of the annual John Humphrey Freedom Award, presented by Rights & Democracy to a frontline human rights defender. The prize, which includes a $25,000 grant and a cross-Canada tour, is named in honour of the well-known Montreal human rights law professor who wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“I want the world to share my dream that one day my country shall cease being prone to the vagaries of famines, ravages of corruption, threats of violence and State dominance, I believe that you have given me this award in recognition of my attempt to change Kenya from this trend in order to make it a liveable, viable and peaceful place, ” said Rev. Njoya.
Warren Allmand, President of Rights & Democracy noted Rev. Njoya’s courage and his willingness to put his life at risk in his struggle for democracy. On more than one occasion, he has been the victim of attacks, and has had to seek hospital attention for his injuries.
“Rev. Njoya is working to allow Kenyans to have a voice in governance of their own country and to wrest control from the corrupt autocratic regime of Daniel Arap Moi,” said Kathleen Mahoney, Chairperson of the Board of Rights & Democracy as she presented the award.
Kenya, with its population of 29 million made up of some 70 different ethnic groups, is going through an identity crisis, experiencing conflicts between the concept of nation and that of ethnic communities, Rev. Njoya said. “We are undergoing personality transition, not able to distinguish who controls our destiny, ourselves as the people, the government or foreigners.”
He called on Canada to help African countries establish their own personalities and agendas: “Canada and Africa need each other on how to exchange strategic values of how governments can be humanised and made accountable to the people.”
Mr. Njoya was scathing of globalization and its effects on developing countries, blaming the global integration of giant transnational corporations for the disintegration of economically dependent African nations.
For Kenyans to be able to continue their struggle, support from Canada is vital, Rev. Njoya said. “We need Canada for the exchange of moral currency, in terms of the values of democracy, human rights and governance.”
Rev. Njoya has mobilised Kenyans opposed to Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi and pushed for fundamental constitutional reforms in his country at great personal cost. Since conducting its first democratic development study in Kenya in 1992, Rights & Democracy has supported many NGOs working for human rights, social justice and democracy.
Previous John Humphrey Freedom Award winners are: 1999 – Dr. Cynthia Maung and Min Ko Naing (Burma); 1998 – Palden Gyatso (Tibet); 1997 – Father Javier Giraldo (Colombia); 1996 – Sultana Kamal (Bangladesh); 1995 – Bishop Carlos F. X. Belo (East Timor); 1994 – Campaign for Democracy (Nigeria) and Egyptian Organization for Human Rights; 1993 – La Plate-forme des organismes ha?tiens de d?fense des droits humains (Ha?ti) and in 1992 – Instituto de Defensa Legal (Peru).
Rev. Njoya embarks on a 10-day tour of six Canadian cities where he will meet government officials, NGOs and members of the Kenyan community to discuss challenges facing democracy and constitutional reform in his country. He will be in Montreal tomorrow, in Ottawa on Dec.12, Edmonton, Dec. 13; Winnipeg, Dec.14; Toronto from Dec.15 to17 and Halifax on Dec.18 and 19.