Kumi Naidoo has been appointed the secretary general of Amnesty International. Kumi is a former Executive Director of international environmentalist group Greenpeace. Picture: Yazeed Kamaldien
Johannesburg - For the first time in its history, Amnesty International will have a secretary general and board chairperson from Africa following the appointment of SA civil society leader Kumi Naidoo.

The human rights body announced that Naidoo will be its secretary general from August 2018 when he succeeds Salil Shetty who has been in that position since 2010. Naidoo’s  appointment is groundbreaking in the organisation’s 56 years history as it will be the first time that the body has a secretary general and chairperson of the board who is African. The current chairperson of the board Mwikali Muthiani, who is from Kenya, was appointed to her position in October. 

“We are delighted to be welcoming Kumi as our new Secretary General. His vision and passion for a just and peaceful world make him an outstanding leader for our global movement, as we strengthen our resolve for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all,” said Muthiani.

Naidoo’s duties will include being the main spokesperson for the organisation and the chief executive of its international secretariat. Amnesty International is the largest human rights movement globally with a global presence including offices in more than 70 countries with 2600 staff and 7 million members, volunteers and supporters worldwide.

Naidoo was excited about his new job and looked forward to learning new ways of doing things.

“I have been an activist and campaigner all my life, so I am excited to be joining the world’s largest people movement for human rights at a time when we need to counter increasing attacks on basic freedoms and on civil society around the globe. This means adapting to a fluid fast-changing global environment with urgency, passion and with courage,” he said.

“Amnesty International’s campaigns for justice and equality today are more urgent than ever, and I am humbled and honoured to be leading the organization in these challenging times,” he added.

Naidoo is an activist and civil society leader and his previous leadership roles include executive director of Greenpeace International, chairperson of the Global Call for Climate Action, founding chairperson of the Global Call to Action against Poverty. He holds a BA in Law and Political Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford.