How A Kenyan Leader Stood Up For Fellow East Africans Who Live Under Tyranny

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Three days ago, few of us knew the Honourable Omar Hassan, the Senator of the Mombasa County, Kenya.

Today we know who he is via his robustly stated perspective on what makes genuine and people-centred regional integration.

For the Senator, it is one thing to build bridges and railroads across borders, but quite another to adopt common values that empower citizens to choose and hold governments accountable. A region incorporating both democratic and totalitarian regimes is therefore neither desirable nor workable. Its a dead end because they speak entirely different languages. A democratic government speaks on and acts on behalf of the people that elected it. A totalitarian regime brutalizes citizens who must do as told or else they are imprisoned, or simply “disappear” and even murdered.

Senator Hassan has in this way spoken for the millions of East Africans who live under totalitarian tyranny. The reaction to his speech has been particularly widespread in Rwanda, easily the worst abuser of human rights. Opposition leaders are either in prison, or exile – and some mysteriously die. Others are prevented from returning to their motherland to electorally challenge the ruling regime.

Who is the Honourable Senator Omar Hassan?

He is a lawyer by professional with an impressive track record in the reform movement in his homeland of Kenya. Hassan is a past Commissioner and Vice Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). KNCHR is a constitutional commission and the lead government agency that promotes and protects Human Rights in Kenya. In his capacity as a Senator, Hassan is a member of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Hassan is the sponsor of the Preservation of Human Dignity and Enforcement of Economic and Social Rights Bill, 2015. This Bill seeks to address the question of Inequality and Social Justice in Kenya.

Sometimes heroes emerge in most unexpected circumstances. And so it is with Senator Omar Hassan. His remarkable words have touched millions across East Africa – that’s what heroes are made of. Heroes speak for the voiceless and give them hope.

David Himbara

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