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Discharged cadet who became rights defender

As we looked for a silent corner to sit at a Chinese restaurant along Mombasa road, Hassan Omar, the vocal human rights commissioner, summons a waiter and orders tea.

It is some minutes to midday, the temperatures are at boiling point and his choice of beverage came across as odd.

By the time the waiter returns with tea, I am already engaged with Omar on his work at the human rights commission.

And it is towards the end of the interview that I learnt that Omar is a big lover of tea, as he ordered another cup of the beverage.

Our discussion is interrupted from time to time by passers-by waving greetings to him, with the more eager ones walking up to where we are seated to shake his hand.

I would see others pointing towards our table — perhaps informing their friends who the bespectacled man with a ‘box’ hairstyle was.

While those Omar has rubbed the wrong way think he is a rabble-rouser, he is a hero to individuals whose rights have been trampled upon.

The 36-year-old rights defender says as a young man growing up in Mombasa, his dream was to become a fighter pilot.

Omar hangs his boots — or more appropriately his gloves — today as a commissioner of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) after a five-year stint.

In September 1995, he left the military training school where he had enrolled as a cadet because the training was not as sophisticated as Tom Cruise’s Top Gun movie, which had inspired him to pursue a career as a soldier. He later joined Moi University for a law course.

The discharged cadet was later suspended indefinitely from the university in 1998 after he led a strike in solidarity with striking teachers while serving in Moi University Students Organisation.

He only resumed studies in 2003 after President Kibaki gave amnesty to all expelled and suspended university students.

“During my suspension, I was actively involved in human rights advocacy and training under the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and the Muslim for Human Rights,” he says.

Omar, who was born in Kibokoni in Mombasa old town, attracts both admiration and dislike in equal measure due to his nature of work.

When he is not keeping Vigilant House mandarins on their toes, he is rubbing the political class the wrong way.

And today as he leaves the commission, he believes he has given his all in serving Kenyans.

“I want Kenyans to remember me as the man who defended them fairly and always spoke for them all the time,” he says.

The only child in the family, Omar says he is passionate about fighting injustices in the society and his drive has always been to see a society where human rights are respected.

“I believe in the respect of the dignity of human beings and my main motivation has always been to see a fair society where the mighty does not trample on the rights of the poor,” he says.

Fulfilled mandate

He says whereas his time at the KNCHR had both its high and low moments, he believes he lived up to his mandate.

Omar joined the commission in 2007 aged 31, the youngest and perhaps most inexperienced member of the team at the time.

“I got the job while doing my internship and I knew it would be challenging given our age differences and knew we would not get along all the time,” he said.

He was KNCHR vice chairman at some point, but resigned after a disagreement with his fellow commissioners.

He exonerates KNCHR Chairperson Florence Jaoko from blame over incidents that he blames on his other colleagues, who had expressed dissatisfaction over the way he was handling some issues in the media.

“They started a process of censure and I did not want to bother them into such lengthy administrative procedure and decided to resign. It had nothing to do with my perceived differences with the chair,”he says.

He cites the time when human rights activists Oscar King’ara and Paul Oulu were killed in broad daylight as the lowest moments during his stint at the commission. Fort an article in relation to this, see All That is Necessary.

“It sent shivers down the spines of human rights defenders that we were facing the real danger of being wiped out by a ruthless force,” he said.

He says the commission has worked tirelessly to ensure police are accountable for their deeds and is happy that police operations, especially as regards human rights violation, have been put under the spotlight.

Omar plans to vie for the Mombasa County senate seat in the election to be held later this year.

~Alex Kiprotich


All That is Necessary

My Last Word to The Rulers as Duty Ends at Human Rights Commission

When There is Sickness

Kenya: You Need Wholesale Reform

Follow the Leaping Leprechaun: What Kenya Can Learn from Ireland


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My Last Word to the Rulers as Duty Ends at Human Rights Commission

By Hassan Omar

The late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto once stated her definition of politics as romance with the people.

I have always been fascinated by Bhutto’s definition. If her definition is to hold, then the quest for human rights and social justice is the absolute compassion. I continue to have great attraction not only to the idea, but the genuine and absolute realisation in the affirmation and non-derogability of the dignity of all human beings. This desire motivates me!

My 5-year term as commissioner to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) ends on Sunday. I do not wish to seek a reappointment. I am moving on. It has been an eventful, exciting and memorable tenure. I move on with a great sense of duty and satisfaction. My conscious whispers that I did my best. It was a great privilege and honour to serve Kenyans in this capacity. I wish to thank my family and friends, the KNCHR family, the human rights fraternity, the people of Kenya and most importantly the Almighty God. Upon God’s name, I took an oath of office to discharge my functions and exercise the powers devolving upon me without fear.

I took particular cognisance of the need to be fearless. With faith, we can overcome fear and vanquish the lords of impunity who preside over the affairs of our nation/State with unfettered discretion, arrogance and greed. My particular area of work was security sector reforms. And I wish to say this. We cannot secure our democracy until and unless we imbibe the virtues and principles of democratic policing and make accountable the organs of national security.

We must shift the paradigm. We must move robustly from the securitinisation of our democracy to the democratisation of our security. We must de-politicise, de-militarise, and professionalise our police service. We must de-ethnicise the leadership of our national security to meet the expectations of our Constitution. The police must embrace reforms. It is a non-negotiable demand of the Constitution, capturing the expressions of the popular desire.

I sympathise with the conditions of service of our police officers. I do hope as a nation, we will search our conscience, relocate our priorities and better the quality of lives of these sons and daughters of this republic. This forward march has started. I do trust that with the establishment of the National Police Service Commission, these aspirations and those of an independent, professional and accountable police service will be realised.

As Kenyans we must endeavour for the respect of human rights. This role is not distinctly that of the KNCHR. Respect for human rights requires eternal vigilance of all citizens. It must matter when your neighbour, your countrymen or even your enemy is subjected to the derogation of his or her dignity.

I was appointed commissioner at age 31. I have particularly made reference to this to beseech the youth of this country to roll up their sleeves. There are no challenges that we cannot surmount, no perils that we cannot overcome. Undeniably, your country needs you!

We are all conscious of the challenges of leadership. At the position I sat, I saw an uncaring and irresponsive leadership. I urge Kenya’s rulers to defend the weak and have compassion for the poor. We must ooze with love for the disenfranchised masses. We must create hope and opportunity.

As I move on, I shall continue the romance with the people. I only pray to God to continue to give me strength, courage and wisdom.

The writer is a commissioner with the KNCHR



In Defence of Success: Don’t Punish Safaricom

All That is Necessary

Duty, Honour, Country

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Steve Jobs: A Story of Perseverance

Absolutely tenacious with a will of steel…are words that immediately come to mind when trying to come up with the most befitting tribute of Steve Jobs’ life.

Last October 2011, Steve Jobs, the visionary CEO of Apple, passed away at the far too young age of 56 after an extended battle with cancer. I was walking home from a haircut and the news was broke to me that Jobs had passed away. Sure enough, upon returning home, I found that every conceivable source I consulted was running coverage of the devastating news.

The internet was ablaze with the news. VisionaryCreative GeniusInspiring MentorMarketer of our Generation. These were just a few of the descriptors that were bestowed upon his legacy. To me, Steve Jobs was the ultimate success story…but not for reasons you might think. Sure, he was a creative genius armed with an infamous temper and meticulous eye for even the slightest of details. Steve Jobs succeeded because he failed. He succeeded because he failed and persevered through seemingly insurmountable odds. He succeeded where others would have turned their hand in and folded.

Jobs entered this world in January of 1955.

Soon thereafter he was put up for adoption by his biological mother who was a young, graduate student at the time. Her one request: that her son be adopted by college graduates. Jobs was adopted by parents without college degrees, his father without a high school degree.

Jobs enrolled at Reed College in the fall of 1972…

Only to leave after one semester. He didn’t leave college for lack of motivation. He left to preserve his parents’ dwindling savings.

Jobs un-enrolled from Reed College in 1972 but he hung around.

He stayed another 18 months dropping in on classes that interested him. Through this transient life, Jobs was able to sit-in on a calligraphy class, where his passion for typefaces emerged…that would later re-emerge in the Macintosh computer in 1984.

Jobs co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in his parent’s garage in early 1976.

Less than 10 years later Jobs was out at Apple and looking to hit the refresh button. Between getting fired in 1985 and returning to Apple in 1997, Jobs founded two companies, NeXT and Pixar. Pixar created the world’s first animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. After returning to Apple in ’97, Apple bought NeXT, which was at the core of Apple’s renaissance.

Jobs re-joined Apple in 1997.

He guided the company out of a period of anonymity by reshaping the consumer electronics industry with iTunes and later the iPod. By 2004, knowledge of Job’s battle with cancer became common knowledge.

Jobs was told he had 3-6 months to live in 2004.

He was told that the cancerous tumor on his pancreas was inoperable. The doctors instructed Jobs to go home and “get your affairs in order,” which to Jobs was code for “prepare to die.” A biopsy was taken later that evening, which revealed that Jobs’ cancer was rare but operable….he would persevere through his gravest challenge to date.

Jobs was never afraid of death.

As keynote speaker for Stanford’s Commencement in 2005, he told the recent graduates, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know how to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Jobs found what he loved and followed his passion through successes and failures, through health scares and challenges in the office. I’ll remember Jobs not for his prescient thinking or innovative mind. I’ll remember Jobs for succeeding when no one would have blamed him for being a failure. Jobs wasn’t gift wrapped anything in life…quite the contrary, he was presented with every burden, hurdle and obstacle one could ask for.

You ask me what to make of Steve Jobs’ legacy?

Four words: A story of perseverance.

 ~Jim Armstrong


HumanIPO opens East Africa’s Largest Co-working Space in Nairobi

Creating Opportunity

In Defense of Success: Don’t Punish Safaricom

Your Dream Team

The Powerful Leverage in A Dream Team

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HumanIPO Opens East Africa’s Largest Co-working Space in Nairobi

In the heart of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, the start-up scene is heating up even more, with the brand new startup incubation space of 800 sqm getting ready to officially open its doors in late January 2012.

This enormous space is designed to draw together freelancers and ICT related businesses from the whole region, for them to work alongside each other and to receive mentoring and also valuable investor and mentor contacts. In addition to the co-working area with ca. 100 desks, the venue can be used for holding different seminars, trainings and get-togethers.

As one of the first inhabitants of the soon to be opened co-working space, the Danish/Kenyan accelerator 88mph will be moving in January together with its 6 start-ups they have invested into during this year.

Want to be part of all this and reserve yourself a desk? We are welcoming freelancers and ICT start-ups to join us with the following monthly rates: fixed desk space 15 000 KSh, flexible desk 10 000 KSh, flexible desk weekends only 2500 KSh. The rates include the first right to the events held in the space.

NB! HumanIPO also warmly welcomes start-ups outside of the continent, with an interest in Eastern-African market.

Have any questions or suggestions?
Just drop us a line @ kd@humanipo.com or leave your comment below and we’ll get back to you with additional details.


Steve Jobs: A story of perseverance

Creating Opportunity

In Defense of Success: Don’t Punish Safaricom

Your Dream Team

The Powerful Leverage in A Dream Team


Why Men Need To Cheat

Monogamy is failing men.

Not only is it failing them, but it’s a “socially compelled sexual incarceration” that can lead to a life of anger and contempt, or so says Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99).

Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they’re busted it’s a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place, he writes.

In his study of 120 undergraduate men, 78 percent of those who had a partner cheated, “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” Contrary to what we may think, most men aren’t cheating because they don’t love their partner, he says; they cheat because they just want to have sex with others. And society shouldn’t pooh-pooh that.

Monogamy’s stronghold on our beliefs — what he calls monogamism — brings ostracism and judgment to anyone who questions or strays from its boundaries. That doesn’t make sense to Anderson, who wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce — throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids’ lives — over something like sex.

Monogamy isn’t the only “proper” way to be in a relationship, and he says it’s time that society finds “multiple forms of acceptable sexual relationship types — including sexually open relationships — that coexist without hierarchy or hegemony.” It’s especially important for today’s young men, for whom monogamous sex seems more boring than in generations past because of easy premarital sex and pornography.

Dr. Anderson was kind enough to answer my questions by email:

Your study includes just 120 undergraduate men, straight and gay; isn’t that too small a sample to really know what’s going on for men?

If I were attempting to determine what percent of men cheat, then, yes. Large-scale surveys show us that cheating remains the norm… I wanted to examine the very notion of monogamy, not morally, but rationally. I wanted to know why men want monogamy but nonetheless cheat.

You say men want to be emotionally monogamous, but their “body craves sex with other people somatically.” People crave food, drugs, booze, sometimes to disastrous results. If there can be self-control with other cravings, why can’t men control their body urges?

Humans are largely lousy at controlling our bodies’ desires. We say we don’t want to eat that Snickers bar, but we also really do want to eat it. We eat it, we feel guilty about it, and afterwards we promise ourselves not to eat one again; but we nonetheless do. It is this same phenomenon, only with cheating, that I explore.

The men in your study experienced a sharp decrease in the frequency and enjoyment of sex after two monogamous years. Since no one can sustain the kind of thrilling sex couples have in the beginning of a relationship, isn’t it a healthy thing that it decreases?

I wish young men got two years of good sex before it dropped off; it’s a lot less than that! It may, however, be good that the sexual desire for one’s partner weans; it means that we end up staying with our long-term partners for the socioemotional connection and not for the sex. If a couple is going to raise a family, it is the emotional connection that counts, not the sexual.

Our physical desires don’t die; they just change from our partner to people other than him/her. We falsely believe that when the sex dies, the relationship has also died. The reality is the opposite; when the sex dies the relationship has just begun.

What about the idea that long-term relationships make sex become deeper, more intimate and more meaningful?

The diminution of sex is simultaneous to one’s emotional bonds growing stronger. Long-term partners may have more intimate sex (most just have very little) but when men see a guy or girl who turns them on, it’s not intimate and meaningful sex they are craving.

Honesty is a huge part of a relationship. How good a relationship can one have when there’s deception, especially since you say after men cheat spontaneously, they are more likely to plan cheating?

Honesty is good sometimes, and horrible other times. There are good reasons to lie; it is an essential skill for keeping community and relationship peace. The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn’t meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.

The way cheating men see it, it’s either cheat or don’t cheat, but telling their partners they want sex outside the relationship, or telling their partners that they actually cheated, is viewed as a surefire way of achieving relationship termination. When men cheat for recreational sex — not affairs — they DO love their partners. If they didn’t, they would break up with them.

Wouldn’t it be less harmful to relationships if we became serial monogamists — marrying two, three or four times as our sexual needs change?

Rather than marrying 20 times or more in one’s life via serial monogamy, we can keep one emotional lover and just have casual, meaningless — and hot — sex with strangers. This gives us the long-term emotional stability we desire psychologically, alongside the hot, carnal sex we desire somatically. It makes much more sense than lying and cheating , or the difficulty of breaking up with a loved one simply because you want someone else’s body for an hour.

Infidelity breaks up many marriages, but often it isn’t the act of sex that’s so upsetting — it’s the deception and lying, clearly problematic for the emotional intimacy you say men want. So cheating for sex may be “just about the sex” for him, but not for his partner.

Infidelity does not break marriages up; it is the unreasonable expectation that a marriage must restrict sex that breaks a marriage up. One of the reasons I wrote the book is that I’ve seen so many long-term relationships broken up simply because one had sex outside the relationship. But feeling victimized isn’t a natural outcome of casual sex outside a relationship; it is a socialized victimhood. I’m not advocating cheating; I’m advocating open and equitable sexual relationships. When both in the couple desire this, when both realize that extradyadic sex makes their partner happy, and they therefore want their partner to have that sex, a couple will have moved a long ways toward facilitating emotional honesty, while simultaneously withering at jealousy scripts, which can be very damaging to a relationship. But if one can’t achieve this with a partner that’s hostile to the idea, cheating is the reasonable action.

Most of the men in your study were OK with sex on the side for them, but not their girlfriends. That seems unfair and incredibly selfish.

Monogamy is culturally compelled, so the decision has been made for us. How much of a chance would a man stand to have a second date if on the first date he said that he was interested in an open relationship? At the point men enter into relationships they, too, think they want monogamy. It’s only after being in a relationship for months or years that they badly want sex with others. But by this point, they don’t want to break up with their partners because they have long-standing love. Instead of chancing that love by asking for extradyadic sex, they cheat. If they don’t get caught (and most don’t) it’s a rational choice.

But it is indeed selfish for men to want sex with others but not to want their partners to do the same. This however is not just a “man” thing. Women also cheat; they also lie about it; and they also want to be able to cheat without their partners doing the same. Monogamy is a problem for all sexes; it builds in an ownership script regardless of gender.

You say love is a “long-standing sense of security and comfort.” So, wouldn’t open relationships potentially pose a threat to that security since, even if couples play by their own sexual rules, there’s always a chance one could end up preferring a new lover over one’s partner?

People in open relationships structure their engagements as to reduce emotional intimacy. But, yes, of course it can happen. What I find from those in open relationships, however, is that once they have had sex with that person they fancied, they tend to get over them.
If we really want to prevent our lovers from developing the lust of others, or worse, emotional intimacy with others; if we really want to prevent men and women from cheating, we would be best to sex-segregate our jobs, our classrooms and social arenas, too. Emotional intimacy is the real threat to a relationship, not a one-off hour with a stranger from Craigslist. Ultimately, there are no guarantees that one’s partner won’t find love elsewhere. But controlling one’s partner to prevent it only makes matters worse — it makes them want to leave you. A better strategy is to be open, emotionally and perhaps sexually, too.

~Vicki Larson

For, um, a sort of different article on the fairer sex, check out:


On Biblical ways of getting a wife:


An open letter to ladies who are single and searching:




I’m stuck in the same moment again. Like a pin on a faulty record I love to sway my hips to. One foot outside the door becomes sinking fast in the pleasurably choking quicksand that is your mind. I imagine the creasing of your lips in response to my attempt at humor. Bittersweet chills cascade over my limbs. I believe I am addicted to this electric shock therapy that is your presence. Stockholm had no idea about this syndrome of impending doom. All reason has left me, swirling madly down the drain of what is left of my heart. Wisdom, caution and measure with it. I am content with keeping this biting secret of love to myself. The shadowy truth that you do not feel as I do can be buried under the guise of this prison called liaison.



Cigarette Break

Darkening Sorrow Veils a Star