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Mar 23 (GIN) – At home she was subjected to death threats for defending women in northeastern Kenya who are vulnerable to rape, female circumcision and murder. This month, Amran Abdundi Amram was cheered as a hero as she collected the 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Campaigning.

The 15th annual freedom prize was presented this month by the U.K.-based international organization that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression. The award honors outstanding individuals in four categories: Journalism, arts, campaigning and digital activism.

Abdundi, who heads up Frontier Indigenous Network (FIN), has been setting up shelters along the border between Kenya and Somalia - an area where militant groups pose a growing threat to local communities. In addition to the shelters, FIN maps out conflict areas, targets the illegal arms trade and has set up radio listening groups.

In thanking the judges, Abdundi acknowledged the efforts of local women with whom she had worked for over a decade. “This award goes to marginalized women of northern Kenya … for fighting outdated cultural practices that deny them the right to own property, that expose them to dangerous practices like FGM, and threaten them with sexual exploitation.”

Other women FIN defends include “conflict concubines” who were abducted by armed youths at the height of armed violence in northern Kenya and acted as comfort women for armed militias. “When these women came back from conflict zones with children born out of wedlock, they were rejected by their families. This award is for them.”

Lastly, she thanked the women who used loud speakers to block their attackers. “We documented the abuses along the border,” she said.

“The women of northern Kenya will now know that their struggles and their efforts to fight for their rights are being recognised internationally,” she said. “You are a true partner of the women of northern Kenya.”

Also recognized by the Index was Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Marques was singled out for his courageous work exposing corruption in government and business in Angola.

Among his investigative pieces was an expose of the ruling family of Pres. Jose Eduardo dos Santos whose daughter Isabel controls over a billion dollars in assets obtained through her father, according to Marques. In 2011, he wrote a book called “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola,” which recounts 500 cases of torture and 100 killings that took place over 18 months in a diamond-mining district in Angola. According to the book, the torture and killings were carried out by guards from a private security firm and by members of the Angolan Armed Forces.

Next week, Marques is scheduled to appear before a court on defamation and criminal libel charges filed by nine Angolan generals and the private security firm used by the President. “This week I may be jailed for writing a book on human rights abuses,” Marques said.  

Letters protesting his prosecution have been sent to the African Commission and the U.N. by Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch and 14 other human rights and free speech groups.

Accepting his award, Marques dedicated it to “my fellow Ethiopian colleagues Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemo and the Zone 9 bloggers. They are all in jail, currently serving some of the harshest sentences in Africa for the crime of exercising their right to freedom of expression.” Alemu, he added, has been denied adequate health care although in “desperate” need.

Other winners for 2015 were Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat, a rapper from Morocco; Safa Al Ahmad, a Saudi journalist, and the Hungarian freedom of information website Atlatszo. w/pix of A. Abdundi Amram

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