Tonny Kirabira has sharp opinions about social media and other internet-based communications, and their effect on democracy-building on the African continent. As a human rights lawyer in Uganda, he has witnessed firsthand the chaos, and often violence, that accompanies election processes that lack adequate technology and communications support systems. His passion is to advocate for transparency and access to information.
“If you want a fully democratic process, it depends on aspects like internet usage as well,” he explains. “If you have people using the internet they can share their views. They are able to debate before they make their decisions, they have the right information. This is very important.”
Kirabira, a current student in the LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law and Klau Center Graduate Student Affiliate, had an opportunity to reach out to the Notre Dame community recently and engage them in a spirited dialogue over these important issues. Invited by Human Rights ND, the undergraduate club at Notre Dame focused on human rights issues, Kirabira participated in an ongoing series of public talks supported by the Klau Center.
James Murphy, president of Human Rights ND, sees the series as an important way to inform students. “The purpose of the Human Rights ND Speaker Series is to connect activists and lawyers from around the world with students at Notre Dame who may not be aware of international issues of justice,” Murphy explains. Previous topics covered in the series have included free speech in Ecuador, human rights and armed conflict in Ukraine, and gender issues in Taiwan.
Aside from informing, Murphy also sees great value in activating student potential. “Many students have the right values and want to be a force for good in the world, but they may not be aware of the ways in which they can contribute,” he says. “It is our hope that by interacting with inspiring human rights defenders, students at Notre Dame will be motivated to translate their belief into action and work to promote human rights.”