Date: July 29, 1999
Contact: Stephen Collins
Phone: (207) 872-3549
1999 Oak Human Rights Fellow
Didier Kamundu Batundi, a 29-year-old activist who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect his family and his own life, has been named the second human rights fellow by the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Kamundu will arrive at Colby in August and remain in residence through the fall semester.
A baker by trade, Kamundu founded a rural development and human-rights organization based in Goma, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kamundu, who taught himself law, has secured medical care for torture victims, confronted an angry mob to save a busload of ethnic Tutsis from mob violence, documented rights abuses and petitioned for the release of political prisoners.
In 1998 Kamundu won the Reebok Human Rights Award for his work in protecting the basic rights of victims of war, regardless of their ethnicity, and in documenting abuses by the national army and local militias. After accepting the award in New York he was on his way back to Goma when friends stopped him to warn that an army truck was stationed at his house, waiting for him. Unable to return home, he escaped from Congo to Uganda, where he was reunited with his family. They are all currently living as refugees in Lyon, France, where Kamundu has created an international human rights network.
The one-semester Oak Human Rights Fellowship was established to allow a front-line human-rights practicioner to take a sabbatical for research, writing and teaching as a scholar-in-residence at Colby. In addition to the fellowship, the Oak Institute supports human rights programs on campus and scholarships for international students at Colby. Colby's freshmen class will include three new Oak Scholars-a political refugee from China and students from Zimbabwe and Denmark.