The Centre for Human Rights wishes to inform its friends, collaborating partners and all other stakeholders, of the appointment of Professor Nkatha Murungi, as Acting Director. This appointment follows the end of the term of the long-time Director, Professor Frans Viljoen, who has been the Director of the Centre since 2007. The 16 years of Prof. Viljoen’s leadership included several terms as Director, as well as interim extensions. He is now on a sabbatical, but will return and take up his position as teacher and researcher in the Centre at the start of 2024.
Under the leadership of Prof Viljoen, the Centre extended its depth and breadth of work, including thematic focus. During the period, the Centre added a further three master's programmes to the two that had been in place in 2007, and graduated a total of 90 doctoral candidates under its supervision. Today, the Centre's research, advocacy and capacity-building activities are undertaken by ten functional units, spanning numerous thematic areas, with a significantly greater reach and impact compared to the two units that existed in 2007. There is no doubt that the Centre has established itself as a beacon for, and on African regional human rights through the active use of its observer status with the relevant AU bodies, credible research and publication, as well providing support to and other forms of engagement with the African Union human rights bodies.
Professor Murungi is a seasoned academic, with a focus on children, disability, women and sexual and reproductive rights. Her LLD thesis (obtained from the University of the Western Cape in 2013), focused on the interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to the education of children with disabilities, is one of the earliest academic research on the Convention in the African context. As the Centre's Assistant Director, she provided oversight and leadership to the Centre’s Children, Disability and Women’s Rights Units, while also spearheading two of the Centre’s master’s programmes: the LLM/MPhil in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa; and the LLM/MPhil in Disability Rights in Africa.
Prof Murungi has been active in policy advocacy and development in the African region, particularly on the rights of vulnerable groups including children, women and persons with disabilities. Her engagements in this regard include serving as a member of the Working Group of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on Children with Disabilities; the African Union CSO Reference Group on Ending Child Marriage, as well as technical reference and contribution to global and regional human rights research initiatives. She has extensive advocacy, project management, and fund-raising experience, garnered in a career spanning the private sector, non-governmental organisations and academia, at national, regional and international levels. Her expertise and experience has been instrumental in securing new and nurturing existing partnerships and funding for the Centre.
Prof Frans Viljoen remarked
'I want to sincerely thank all the partners and friends of the Centre for their invaluable support to the Centre and to me personally. This has certainly been a very exciting and rewarding time, and a privilege to be part of steering the Centre forward to be a beacon for human rights in Africa, particularly of those who are most often rendered vulnerable. I am fully confident that Nkatha is excellently qualified for this position, and I wish her, Lloyd Kuveya, serving as Assistant Director, and the management team all the best with the task ahead. I look forward, as a Centre staff member, to stay fully involved in many Centre activities.'
Commenting on the transition, Assistant Director Mr Kuveya said
'I am confident that Professor Nkatha will steer the Centre for Human Rights to the next level during her tenure and she has my full support and that of all the staff members.'
Prof Murungi noted that she is
'deeply honoured to serve the Centre as Acting Director. It is an immense responsibility, and a duty to not only the Centre itself, but also to the trust and shared commitment of our partners and friends. The Centre has been central to my human rights career, and as such, I feel at home in the pursuit of its vision and mission. With the support of an excellent team we are fortunate to have, I look forward to contributing to the advancement of human rights in Africa and beyond.'
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