Hassan Shire is the Executive Director of the DefendDefenders and Chairperson of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN). Under Shire’s leadership, DefendDefenders provides emergency protection, advocacy, awareness raising, capacity building, and technological support to human rights defenders. Mr. Shire founded and co-directed the Dr. Ismail Jumale Human Rights Centre (1996-2001) and was the Chairperson of Peace and Human Rights Network (1998-2001) in Mogadishu, Somalia, before he was forced to flee Somalia by extremist groups.
While in exile in Canada, he worked with the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and Amnesty International Canada to create the African Human Rights Defenders Project. This led to his return to the continent in 2005 and the founding of DefendDefenders in Uganda. He later co-founded the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Pan African Human Rights Defenders network. Shire was also actively involved in building coalitions for the protection of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa namely in Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Somalia/Somaliland.
Shire regularly engages with African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, UN Human Rights Council, the Community of Democracies, government authorities, and African and foreign diplomatic missions for the advancement of human rights in Africa. He is currently Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (Geneva, Switzerland), board member of the Institute of Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (Banjul, The Gambia), and Board member of the African Center for Justice and Peace and Studies (Kampala, Uganda).
Shire has received numerous awards from the international community including the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, the Leadership Awards of the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network in 2015, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Leadership Award by Refugees International in 2017.
Ms. Memory Bandera joined DefendDefenders as the Director of Programs and Administration. She is in charge of programs, and deals extensively with organisational development and human resources management. Memory is a US trained Zimbabwean who specialises in International Development.
Before joining DefendDefenders, she worked with the International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE) where she was responsible for coordinating the design and implementation of seminars and supporting the Institute’s technical assistance projects and advisory services. Prior to joining ILI-ACLE, Memory was the Regional Program Coordinator for East Africa with Youth Action International, and also worked with the Marketing Science Institute in Boston, USA as a Publications, Research, and Membership Coordinator. Memory is also a founding member of the Girl Child Network Zimbabwe (1999); co-founder of Tariro: Hope and Health for Zimbabwe’s Orphans (2003); and Girl Child Network Uganda (2009). Memory received her Master of Science in International Relations from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Complex organisations from Mount Holyoke College, in Massachusetts, USA.
Mr. Joseph Bikanda is the coordinator of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network since October 2011.
Joseph Has a Masters Degree in International law and worked as Protection assistant with Front Line International foundation of HRDs, Legal Officer at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Assistant to the Chairperson of the African Commission; Acting Coordinator for the activities of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, and Technical Assistant to the Committee of the African Commission on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV, and those at risk, vulnerable and affected by HIV in Africa. He was delegated also in the preparation of the 30 years anniversary of the African Charter at the secretariat of the African Commission.
Mr. Neil Blazevic is the Manager of the Technology and Human Rights Defenders Program and dedicates his time to making technology work for the purposes of human rights defenders.
When not planning and giving digital safety training for regionally based human rights defenders, Neil can be found tinkering with or implementing documentation systems, tweaking internal security practices, and enabling web presence for civil society organisations. Neil additionally has a research background with several publication credits to his name available in the DefendDefenders library.
As the Senior Advocacy and Research Officer, Estella oversees the Advocacy and Research department at DefendDefenders. Together with the Advocacy and Research team, they highlight the challenges affecting human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region and call for a safer working environment.
Estella has experience engaging with the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights where DefendDefenders draws the attention of the international community to the human rights situation in the sub-region; and amplifies the voice of the HRDs on the ground. She holds a Masters degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Ludivine coordinates DefendDefenders’ Great Lakes Region project. She holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Political Science Institute of Aix-en-Provence and a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po Paris).
She most recently worked at Handicap International, a humanitarian NGO, on emergency preparedness and emergency response mechanisms. Prior to that, she interned at Amnesty International Canada, working on various issues such as the situation of prisoners of conscience, women’s rights or aboriginal rights. This experience cemented her commitment to and passion for human rights work. She also conducted research and published articles on migration issues. She is fluent in both French and English.
Mr. Alex Lukoye joined DefendDefenders as Finance Officer in April 2010. He is a Certified Public Accountant CPA (U) and holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree from the University of Makerere.
Alex is experienced in financial management and has considerable experience working in the development and human rights field in the Eastern Africa region having worked in Uganda and Sudan. Before joining DefendDefenders, he was working with the Uganda Red Cross Society as a Regional Accountant prior to which he worked as a Country Accounting Manager for Action Africa Help International, in both the Uganda and Sudan country programmes. Alex also worked as Finance Officer for African Development and Emergency Organisation with their refugee project in Uganda.
Ms. Nuruh Nakiwala is the Program Officer of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project since September 2007. Nuruh has a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and Social Administration (SWSA) from Makerere University, Uganda.
Her interest and commitment to human rights was stirred through a number of internships involving human rights and community based interventions. She interned with Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) which exposed her to human rights issues, did voluntary work with the Local Government/Sub-county in Kapchorwa District which involved community sensitization and interned with Lweza Rehabilitation Centre for people with disabilities, a factor that later formed the basis of her dissertation paper.
At DefendDefenders, Nuruh assists the program staff in project implementation, financial management and monitoring and grant reporting.
Ms. Tabitha Netuwa – a lawyer by training – is the Protection and Security Management Manager in the organization. Her tasks entail managing the protection programme which supports human rights defenders at risk to ensure that they receive the necessary support to overcome the challenges that they face. The programme also undertakes training HRDs in security management to ensure that they are equipped with the skills to put in place measures to mitigate potential risks.
Tabitha has been involved in trial observation missions in cases where HRDs are facing legal challenges as a result of their human rights work. She has been involved in research projects to assess the situation HRDs, and engaged with different stakeholders at national, regional and international levels to ensure their protection. She has also previously worked with refugees and displaced persons.
Ms. Jennifer Orochi Aciko joined DefendDefenders/ Pan-African Human rights defenders Network (PAHRDN) as the Initiatives Fellow in October 2015 and 6 months later became the Initiatives Officer. Her responsibilities includes supporting the development of programs, work plans, implementation of plans, monitoring and reporting for PAHRDN and DefendDefenders.
Over the last years, she has built a professional background in development work with a focus on Organisational Administration and Grants Management. Her competences and accomplishments in this area span across the fields of organisational development, Grants Administration and Management and is able to demonstrate excellent working knowledge of procedures, rules and regulations appropriate to working with grants with proven ability to ensure compliance.
Previously she has worked with Ministry of East African Community (MEACA) Technical Support Unit Project (TSU) as a Program’s Assistant and before that with Regional Center for Quality Health Care and School of Public Health CDC Fellowship Program as a program Officer – Makerere University School of Public Health) in charge of Grants administration. She pursued her 1st bachelor’s Degree from Makerere University (BA Arts (ARTS) and specialized in Organisational Management and later a post graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Management at Uganda Management Institute- Kampala (UMI).
Mr. Nicolas Agostini joined the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project as its Representative to the United Nations (UN) in March 2018. He has been working to set up DefendDefenders’ office in Geneva and advance its advocacy efforts at the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies and mechanisms.
Prior to joining DefendDefenders, Nicolas spent several years working with human rights organizations at the national and international levels. He advised Cambodia’s oldest human rights NGO, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC). In Geneva, he worked for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) as the organization’s Representative to the UN. He also worked with Civil Rights Defenders and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), lectured at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and conducted research on Rwanda’s genocide and political violence in Kenya. Nicolas studied at Sciences Po Strasbourg, France and holds Master’s Degrees in International Law and International Relations from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University and Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, respectively.
Bernard joined DefendDefenders as the Logistics Officer for DefendDefenders’ Great Lakes Region project. Before joining the organisation Bernard worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ National I.D Project as a Verification Officer, and at the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation as a Procurement Assistant
Bernard holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration / Project from Makerere University (2016). He is a member of the chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply – (CIPS-UK) since ( 2012) with an Advanced Diploma in Procurement and Supply. He also holds a Bachelors Degree in Procurement and Logistics from Makerere University(2012) and most recently obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Monitoring and Evaluation from Uganda Management institute.
Mr. Janvier Hakizimana, Senior Protection Associate, joined DefendDefenders in 2008 as volunteer and intern before being recruited as a Protection Associate in 2013 in charge with human rights defenders’ protection outreach and training activities.
Janvier holds a Bachelor of Arts / Education in language teaching (English and French) from the University of Rwanda; a Masters Degree in Human Rights and Development from Kampala International University (Uganda); a Certificate in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from Respect University (Canada); a Certificate in International and African Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Safety of Journalists from the University of Pretoria (South Africa); and Certificates in International Human Rights Law from Duke University (USA) and Université de Génève (Switzerland).
He is a PhD candidate and SHUREA (Strengthening Human Rights Research in Sub-Saharan Africa) fellow in Human Rights from Makerere University specialising in digital monitoring, documenting and reporting (MDR) with a pragmatic focus on Martus software. He co-lectures human rights, especially MDR, refugee rights and media and human rights at Makerere University and reviews PhD and post-doctoral works of SHUREA fellows from Makerere University (Uganda), University of Nairobi (Kenya), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), University of Pretoria, and Ǻbo-Akademi (Finland).
As a Martus specialist, Janvier Hakizimana carries out consultancies and conducts trainings and workshops in digital MDR across Africa. He previously worked with Ministry of Education, Commission Nationale de l’UNESCO in Rwanda Ministry of Local Government before becoming a Secondary School teacher from 2007 to 2012, and being a full-time employee of DefendDefenders in 2013 in Uganda.
Neema Iyer is the Lead for the DATA4CHAN.GE project, working to amplify the data skills of human rights organizations across East Africa. She’s a technologist with several years experience across Africa on mobile technology projects through her work with Text to Change and later on with VOTO Mobile. Neema holds a BA in Psychology and an MPH in Global Epidemiology. Neema is responsible for making DATA4CHAN.GE a reality and in supporting the IT team with programs focused on incorporating data and innovation into the work of human rights organizations.
Mr. Mark Kiggundu joined DefendDefenders in 2013. At DefendDefenders, Mark is responsible for managing software and hardware systems, developing and enforcing security policies, training human rights defenders on digital security, and supporting them in using innovative technologies in their human rights work.
He holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from Makerere University, a certificate in basic software application technology from Shenzhen Association for Promoting International Economic and Technological Cooperation in China and a certificate in Business Process Outsourcing from Makerere University.
Mr. Ambrose Katwesigye has been working with DefendDefenders as driver and messenger since early 2007. Ambrose has successfully completed Secondary School in Uganda and since then worked as a driver for several companies. At DefendDefenders, he is responsible for running logistical errands, coordinating the transport of staff members and maintenance of the office vehicles.
As Communications Officer, Mr. Thomas Kleinveld manages DefendDefenders’ public profile and outreach campaigns, and supports the organisation’s advocacy work at the UN Human Rights Council and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Thomas joined DefendDefenders as Communication Advisor after an initial media residency to document the organisation history as part of its ten-year anniversary celebrations. He previously worked in Uganda as a freelance journalist and country manager for Trac FM, a SMS-based platform to promote public participation and accountability. He holds an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts from Utrecht University and Dual Masters’ degree in Journalism, Media and Globalisation and Financial Journalism from Aarhus University, the University of California Berkeley, and City University London.
Mr. Majid Maali joined DefendDefenders as Security Management Officer in February 2013. Before joining DefendDefenders, Majid worked at Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), where he created an access to justice network that provided free legal aid for internally displaced persons, students, women and other vulnerable groups.
SUDO ran community centres for IDPs from Darfur before the government banned the organisation in retaliation for the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against President Al-Bashir. Majid continued his career as a human rights lawyer at the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, which is a Sudanese human rights NGO in exile and a former protective fellow at the Center for Applied Human Rights at the University of the York. Majid holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Al-Neelain University in Sudan. He is fluent in Arabic and English.
As the research and advocacy fellow at DefendDefenders, Mr. Meffe focuses on issues affecting human rights defenders across the region. He formerly worked as a freelance journalist and as the Aga Khan Foundation media fellow at the Nation Media Group in Nairobi. Mr. Meffe holds a double Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University, and Masters’ degrees from the Danish School of Media & Journalism and Swansea University. He is fluent in French, English, and Italian.
Ms. Stella Murungi is a lawyer who works in DefendDefenders’ Protection and Security Management Department to extend support to human rights defenders in the sub region through direct, fast track intervention, as well as tailored trainings.
Stella previously worked as a volunteer at the High Court where she was responsible for compiling reports from research on legal precedents to help in delivery of judgements on cases heard. She also volunteered with South African Students Volunteers Organization to help set up primary schools in rural areas that previously had none. Stella is a trainer of trainers in both in digital and physical security, and has worked with HRDs in areas of conflict as well as minority groups to help them reduce the risks arising out of their work and come up with concrete strategies to mitigate these risks. She also works in close collaboration with DefendDefenders’ partners to share best practices on specific country situations for the benefit of HRDs
At DefendDefenders Immaculate is responsible for all the Computer related problems managing software and hardware systems, leveraging Social media avenues, fixing problems staff members members, updating the websites, carrying out digital security trainings for human rights defenders that will help secure their work and also give direct assistance to human rights defenders.
Jeremie Nkunzimana is a Project Officer for DefendDefenders’ Great Lake Region project. Before joining the organisation in February 2017, Jeremie was the CEO of the Forum le Renforcement de la Societe Civile (FORSC). He joined FORSC in February 2012, after serving as a project Officer in charge of the Regional Integration Program funded by Trademark East Africa from 2012 to 2015.
Before joining FORSC, Jeremie also worked as Monitoring and Evaluation Project officer with Chemonics International, a NGO that implemented the USAID-Burundi Policy Reform Project (20O7-2011). His professional experience started with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2002-2007), as advisor in the Information Department. Jeremie holds a Diploma of License in History and Political Sciences from the University of Burundi (1996-2002). He was also trained in Diplomacy and International Relations at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, IRIC (2014-2015). Since August 2017, he is registered at Kampala International University as Post-Graduate Diploma student in Project Planning and Management.
Ms. Zainab Nakato works as Administrative Assistant at DefendDefenders since January 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration from Islamic University in Uganda, and a certificate in Oral Communication Skills from the British Council.
Previously, Zainab worked with Electoral Commission as a display officer, and did internships at Legal Aid Clinic counseling children in conflict with the law, and at Mission After Custody working with vulnerable children. Before taking on her position, Zainab interned at African Human Rights Education project hosted by DefendDefenders. As Administrative Assistant, Zainab assists in general administration and procurement of the organisation, in capacity building events and trainings, and at the Resource Centre operations and database work.
Ms. Mariam Nakibuuka joined DefendDefenders in May 2015 and works under the protection department as the Protection Associate. She handles various tasks which are meant to ensure that Human rights defenders at risk receive the necessary support to overcome their risks as well as providing them with capacity building tools to enable them continue their work while being able to mitigate the risks as they might arise.
Mariam is a law graduate holding a diploma in legal practice from Law Development Center Kampala, a bachelor’s degree in Law from Kampala International University and a post graduate diploma in legal practice from the institute of Legal Practice and Development Rwanda. In addition to this Mariam holds a certificate in public procurement and contract management from Uganda management institution (UMI) and a Certificate in Purchase and Supply Chain Management from Multi-tech Business School. Mariam has worked with Kabuzire, Mbabaali &Co Advocates as a legal officer and administrator, 24/ADS an advertising company as the legal and procurement manager, and interned with The National Human Rights Commission Rwanda. Mariam is determined and motivated to continue on the path of promotion and protection of Human Rights.
Mariam has handled various clients with specific focus on the South Sudan crisis, following up on the violations against human rights defenders in the country.
She has attended various trainings on the use of various electronic documentation systems and in using them to collect, analyse and visualize data, to be able to monitor human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa region. She is currently the lead on data registration, compilation of statistical information in the Protection department for DefendDefenders.
She is a law graduate holding a diploma in legal practice from Law Development Center Kampala, a bachelor’s degree in Law from Kampala International University and a post graduate diploma in legal practice from the institute of Legal Practice and Development Rwanda. In addition, she holds a certificate in public procurement and contract management from Uganda management institution (UMI) and a Certificate in Purchase and Supply Chain Management from Multi-tech Business School. She has worked with Kabuzire, Mbabaali &Co Advocates as a legal officer and administrator, 24/ADS an advertising company as the legal and procurement manager, and interned with the National Human Rights Commission Rwanda.
Mariam is determined and motivated to continue on the path of promotion and protection of human rights.
Ms. Anne Nakiyingi joined DefendDefenders in October 2012 as Capacity Building Assistant. She has four years experience in office operations management, and prior to joining DefendDefenders, Anne worked with Major Communication Consultants where she acquired training in management, communication skills and needs assessment.
Anne holds a Bachelors Degree in Arts from Makerere University, where she majored in Communication Skills and also studied Literature in English as a minor course.
At DefendDefenders, Anne works as the Capacity Building Assistant in charge of arranging and coordinating logistics for training, workshops and conferences undertaken by DefendDefenders, assists in planning capacity building activities, assesses needs and gathers feedback from capacity building activities.
Ms. Jane Ngabirano works as Finance Assistant with DefendDefenders since 2012. Jane is a Certified Public Accountant (U) and holds a degree in Development Studies and a diploma in Business Studies.
Jane has a wide range hands-on experience and skills in financial management and accounting. Previously, she worked with Protection Desk Uganda as Finance and Administrative Officer. Jane also worked as Head of Finance and Administration with Epilepsy Support Association Uganda and as Accounts Officer with People and Plants Projects in Mbarara University, Kampala Medical Chambers and Comboni Hospital Bushenyi. At DefendDefenders, Jane assists in ensuring proper financial management and accounting in the finance department. She also assists in adequate financial reporting and compliance with the specific and generally accepted financial and accounting legal and organisational requirements .
Mr. Donatien Niyongendako is a Burundian HRD, technologist, and trainer in digital security. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree and Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Burundi.
From 2013 to April 2015, he worked for the Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE) as head of the ICT department. Since May 2015, Donatien has served as ICT assistant at DefendDefenders. He is fluent in French and has delivered digital security and social media trainings in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Togo. He holds a certificate of study for CCNA from Makerere University. Donatien is interested in computer programming, database development, digital security, design and web development, network & system administration and sports.
He works with DefendDefenders as Protection Assistant. His work involves facilitating trainings in Risk Assessment, handling protection cases and data entry. He is passionate about result frameworks in human rights and risk assessment for human right defenders in exile. He speaks English, French and Kiswahili.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political and Administrative Sciences, a specialized degree in Political Science of Université Officielle de Bukavu (U.O.B) and a Master’s degree in Security Studies from Cavendish University Uganda (CUU) with particular interest in Risk Assessment and Human Security for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
Ms. Nyamutono Proscovia Ititu holds a degree in Business Administration majoring in Finance from Makerere University. She has worked in finance since 1995 in different capacities and with different organisations. She joined DefendDefenders in 2016 as Finance Officer, handling financial and accounting duties of the project assigned.
Ms. Nyamutono Proscovia Ititu with Action Africa International at their head offices in Kampala in 1995 as an Accounts Assistant/Cashier and performed bookkeeping roles. From 2009 to 2010 she worked with Action Africa Help International in South Sudan as Project Accountant for the Juba Recovery and Rehabilitation Project (RRP) and Sudan Recovery Fund ( SRF), where she was in charge of the projects and management of the finances of the projects. In April 2011 she joined the Norwegian Refugee Council Head Office in Gulu as a Finance officer and performing all financial and accounting duties.
Mr. Moses Oteba is a pragmatic, multi-talented, adaptable and conscientious professional with particular interest in Conflict, Security and Development. He is highly experienced in Human Rights Education, Social research, Community engagement and project Administration. He is also skilled in the use of expressive arts in stress and trauma therapy. Karis is an articulate and diplomatic communicator, and an excellent team player too.
Prior to joining DefendDefenders, Karis worked as Programs Assistant at The Pincer Group International Limited focusing on the project to Revitalize Education Participation and Learning in Conflict Areas of Northern and Eastern Uganda. He is a calm, soft spoken, yet firm. He successfully led work teams and managed sensitive projects at Avant-Garde Innovations – a NGO of which he is a co-founder.
Karis also taught Business French at Makerere University Business School and done several Capacity building and training consultancies for organizations working around children, women and youth programs. Driven by passion about Leadership and Democratic Governance, he has traversed all the regions of Uganda engaging youth and mobilizing communities for collective action geared towards local and national development.
At DefendDefenders, Karis has excellently delivered over 50 trainings and consultancies in security management and risk assessment for individual HRDs and organisations. Together with colleagues, they have published a contextualized security manual for African HRDs entitled “STAND UP”, along with several other short publications and tools. He is also taking lead in integrating artistic therapy in the protection of HRDs which gives a more holistic approach to HRD security and protection.