Activist Okiya Omtatah has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Kenya and the Working Group on Human Defenders.
Omtatah was also awarded the Popular Vote award from the two groups in an annual general meeting held yesterday.
Other notable winners in the event include Anastacia Nambo and Is’shaq Abubakar who were awarded the 2018 Human Rights Defender of the year award.
Christine Kandie won the Upcoming Human Rights Defender of the Year award.
From online sources, it is believed that Omtatah was called at the University of Nairobi to study a Bachelor of Commerce degree but he declined the admission and instead joined St Augustine in Mabanga, Bungoma where he pursued a Diploma in Philosophy. However, a fatal injury in his brain left him almost mad, and he had to drop out of school.
He later joined Kenya Polytechnic to pursue Mechanical and Automotive Engineering. He graduated two years later with a diploma in Mechanical and Automobile Engineering.
The activist has filed more than 150 cases in the past 10 years, more than some practicing lawyers.
“I remember my first case was Petition 786 of 2008, which I filed through Kibe Mungai challenging the constitutionality of the National Assembly Salaries and Remuneration Act. The matter was given a three-judge bench, but was frustrated until we abandoned it,” Omtatah says as quoted by a local daily.
His cases have not been without challenges, the latest being in July when the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) complained that the activist was taking lawyers’ jobs through multiple filing of public interest litigations.
“We are concerned that Mr Omtatah is getting a lot of leeway in the courts. He relies on information provided by disgruntled elements in a corporation or in government using confidential and privilege information,” said LSK president Mr Allen Gichuhi.
However, Gichuhi’s comments would backfire as the public was up in arms against him, forcing him to retract saying that he was misunderstood. He said that the complaints on the activists were raised by the Nyeri LSK branch chair Wahome Gikonyo.
He said that the main concern that the lawyers have was that other parties using him as a proxy in matters that they should have filed and use of privileged documents.
Sad demise of a historied organisation that should be busy helping bring the Constitution to life instead of whining. Thankfully a new generation of lawyers are filling the gap. pic.twitter.com/93tbm8nFYJ
— Ory Okolloh Mwangi (@kenyanpundit) July 3, 2018
Omtatah’s battle in September, when he moved to court to challenge Finance Act, 2018.
The case was unsuccessful, Kenyans online started a campaign to fundraise for him. Those who started the initiative urged the public to send him as low as Ksh10 for photocopies, transport and the filing of the cases.
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