We are gravely saddened by the passing of Odindo
Opiata, executive director of one of the most exemplary human rights NGOs in
Kenya: Hakijamii, Economic
& Social Rights Centre. He was a brilliant
lawyer, widely respected for his insight and integrity. He has been a good
friend and a trusted and dedicated comrade in the struggle against human rights
violations at home and abroad. We will miss him tremendously.
Suffering from liver cancer, Opiata died at Mater
Hospital where he was admitted on Friday.
Mr. Opiata went to exile in Tanzania in May 1981,
following then Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi’s government on crackdown of
democracy activists who were advocating for an end to one party rule and the
widening of the democratic space in their country. Odinda was among prominent
activists were accused of planning to overthrow the Moi government.
Later, Mr Opiata was jailed for three years from
1986 to 1989 during Kenya`s one-party rule and was a victim of the infamous
Nyayo House torture chambers.
He was also a member of the National Slum Upgrading
Policy Task Force and also served in the Technical Advisory Panel for
UN-Habitat’s Advisory Group on Forced Evictions.
Previously, he worked as the coordinator of Legal
Services and Community Partnerships at Kituo Cha Sheria between 2000 and 2005.
Up to the time of his death, Odindo Opiata was the director of Hakijamii, the
organisation he started in 2004 with the aim of helping help community groups
at the grassroots to advocate for their rights more effectively.
His brother, Naaman Opiata, urged Parliament to
ensure that The Evictions and Resettlement Procedures Bill is passed into law
in honour, as advocating for its enactment was one of his goals of recent
Pioneer of Democracy
Paying tribute to Odindo, Dean of the State
University of New York at Buffalo Law School Makau Mutua recalled their common
struggle against the Kanu dictatorship in the 1980s. The distinguished
professor referred to the late Opiata as “one of the pioneers of democracy and
human rights in Kenya.”
As student leaders at the University of Nairobi,
the late Opiata, Prof. Mutua and Saulo Busolo Wanambisi (later MP) led other
students in protests against the repressive Moi regime. Prof. Mutua preceded
Opiata to exile in Tanzania.
Upon returning back to Kenya after completing law
school in 1991 when multi-party politics were permitted in the country. Mr.
Opiata then was arrested and jailed on false charges of being a member of the
elusive Mwakenya Movement. Jailers tortured him brutally. However, he recovered
and later emerged as one of the most-important human rights voice for voiceless
Kenyans. He leaves a rich legacy of good works and an example for many to
Rest in peace, Odindo Opiata.
For those that would like to send condolences,
please visit hisfacebook memorial page “RIP ODINDO OPIATA.”