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Gamito dos Santos Carlos

Executive Director
AJOPAZ, The Youth Association for Peace.
Gamito dos Santos Carlos Receives Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk

The annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005 to honour the work of HRDs who are courageously making outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves.

Gamito dos Santos Carlos, a 33-year-old human rights defender from Nampula, northern Mozambique, is the executive director of AJOPAZ, the Youth Association for Peace. His human rights work centres around social, civil and political rights and accountability. Gamito has been advocating for the protection of human rights activists and engaging with young people to advocate for significant social changes in his community, to foster justice and sustainable decision-making by authorities. He is also a member of the Friends of Amurane Association for a Better Mozambique - KÓXUKHURO, as well as an analyst and Provincial Coordinator of the Mozambican Network of Human Rights Defenders (RMDDH).

Growing up, Gamito had a difficult childhood. His parents separated when he was young, and he has lived independently since the age of 12. His father was an agricultural extension worker and his mother a domestic worker, both of whom have passed away. Despite these difficulties, he managed to complete his education and after finishing school, he became involved in activism, working first on sexual and reproductive health for young people. To support himself and his siblings, he had a number of jobs.

Gamito later became involved in public service. Upon the recommendation of his mentor, the late Dr Mahamudo Amurane, he joined the Nampula Municipal Council, where he held various positions. He also worked for two years as a communications and press officer for then President of the Nacala Porto Municipality. However, he resigned that post to fully pursue his passion - defending human rights and opposing the exploitation of the country's resources. He has worked on a number of notable different initiatives calling for accountability, working in a context where the management and administration of public services and infrastructure has not been as effective as it should be. Gamito cites a lack of understanding on the part of politicians, citizens’ lack of information, and a culture of conformity and fear, as reasons why little change has been achieved.

In 2017, Gamito intervened in accusations in schools regarding the illegal payment of guards. He also worked on ensuring the Namiteka neighbourhood had rightful access to water by ensuring the replacement of their water supply system. He has helped families to recover illegally taken land, and many other matters similar to this. His community sees him as someone who can assist on a number of social matters and he is trusted as someone who can support and advise them on local civil and political rights.

Gamito was particularly active in 2023 when elections took place in Mozambique. He implemented local governance election projects which aimed to train young people on how to take part in decision-making processes in Municipal Assemblies, as well as organising election observation teams. He helped to get 105 young people released after they were arrested for peacefully protesting the 2023 election results on the grounds that they were fraudulent.

In May 2023, Gamito spoke out against the unlawful demolition and eviction of vendors from the Nampula Market, which had left 1,000 of them without a livelihood or compensation. He noted that the market’s destruction could result in an increase in illegal activities, since many young people who depended on it for their livelihoods would be left without job opportunities. However, his intervention resulted in death threats, intimidation of his family through anonymous phone calls and an attempted robbery at his home. When trying to file a lawsuit demanding compensation for the victims, Gamito was ambushed in his car, his window was smashed and documents related to the case were taken.

In Mozambique, those who defend human rights face an increasingly repressive environment that restricts their ability to organise peaceful demonstrations and protests. Gamito’s human rights work has exposed him to grave dangers, including kidnapping, torture, threats, intimidation and more. At a march on 18 March 2023, in honour of the late activist and musician, Edson da Luz, also known as ‘Azagaia’, Gamito was kidnapped and tortured, accused of creating instability in the country, and questioned about his human rights work before being released the following day. His home was raided three times, and in November 2023, unidentified people held him and his family hostage in their home, even putting a gun to his seven-year-old daughter's head. They also confiscated his work equipment, including mobile phones and his work computer, which contained sensitive data.

The repeated raids on his home have forced Gamito to leave the neighbourhood he has lived in since childhood, and his family has suffered ongoing social and economic impacts of the intimidation against him. Due to his activism, he has lost his job with the Municipality of Nampula and the negative stigma associated with him makes it difficult for him to find new work. Gamito has also experienced social isolation and reduced social networks, as close friends and family often face secondary targeting as a result of their ties to him.

In Mozambique, it is also difficult to secure sustainable and sufficient financial resources needed to carry out his human rights work and to follow through on outcomes. However, despite all these challenges, Gamito has consistently defended democracy, human rights and anti-corruption initiatives in Mozambique, having a significant impact in improving conditions for the Nampula community.

Gamito dreams of a fairer, equal country; where health, education, housing and employment are rights which are properly realised, where equity and gender equality are accepted without prejudice, where young people and women are involved in decision-making processes, where politicians treat people with respect and dignity and adhere to the rule of law, where freedom of speech is a respected right, and where democracy is genuine and people exercise their rights without fear.