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CESR pays tribute to Odindo Opiata




CESR is deeply saddened by the loss of our ally and friend Odindo Opiata. The veteran activist, who was a leading figure in the struggle for human rights and democracy in his home country of Kenya, lost his battle with liver cancer last Friday in Nairobi’s Mater Hospital.

In recent years, his passion for social justice was most evident in his leadership of Hakijamii, the NGO he founded in 2004 to fight for the economic and social rights of the most marginalized in Kenyan society.  Under his leadership this organization has achieved notable successes in protecting the rights to housing, land, and water and sanitation, especially among communities living in informal settlements.

Opiata’s work with Hakijamii was just the latest chapter in an indefatigable life as a human rights advocate characterized by tremendous personal sacrifice, including imprisonment, torture and exile.  That these experiences did not blunt his passion and commitment to human rights and social justice is testimony to his courage, commitment and integrity. These traits—matched only by his intelligence, his great humor and his compassion for those left behind by an unjust society—made working with him a true privilege.

A firm believer in the power and necessity of collaboration and the participation of communities in every decision that affected them, Opiata worked tirelessly both to support the campaigns of grassroots organizations in his own country, and to foster mutual support and learning between Hakijamii and other human rights organizations around the world. His contribution to the economic and social rights movement, both within Kenya and beyond, cannot be understated.
Odindo Opiata will be sorely missed, and his legacy will be felt for many years to come. Here at CESR, we offer our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and express our gratitude for a man who enriched our work and understanding beyond measure.