Friday, 22 November 2013

Our choices had their consequences: the short story of two friends who took different paths...

1994 is a lifetime away, and yet I remember it as if it was just yesterday. I was a graduate student at Oxford University reading international law and comparative human rights. I had bumped into a tall, graceful and intelligent Kenyan woman at a social event and we had struck up a conversation. I later found out that she was a Kenyan diplomat recently arrived at Oxford for a one-year mid-career development course. We became friends and I would invite her from time to time to attend events at Jesus College where I was serving as President of the Graduate Common Room.

On one such occasion, I invited her to a talk I was to deliver to a mixed audience of dons and students. I spoke of the emerging world order that would shape the world of the 21st Century after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In my talk, I envisaged a world that would no longer be dominated by states and multilateral institutions such as the UN and the World Bank, but that would be increasingly shaped also by civil society, both global and national, as citizens found their voices and organized themselves along common causes. It seemed a fairly novel idea at the time. But it seemed to have left a lasting impression on the mind of my new friend for she has always brought up that talk and what it foretold whenever she has had to introduce me to someone new.

This past week I bumped into my friend again during the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. She is here on a mission. To persuade the international community to stop the prosecution of her boss and his deputy for their alleged involvement in the worst atrocities to have occurred in Kenyan history. I too am on a mission. To speak up for the 1,133 Kenyans whose voices were permanently silenced six years ago, the 600,000 who were rendered homeless, the hundreds who were raped and the thousands who lost all their livelihoods. They have waited for six years for justice. It would be a travesty to ask them to continue waiting for another five or ten years.

And so my friend and I find ourselves on different sides of that world that I foresaw almost two decades ago, fighting for causes we both believe to be right, but knowing deep down that we both can't be right. One thing is clear, we both claim to be doing what we are doing in a far away land for the love of our country.

I meet her again at the delegate's lounge and we exchange pleasantries, promising to give one another a call and have coffee when we are back home, but knowing full well that that will not happen.

Somehow I miss our days among the dreaming spires of Oxford when we imagined the world as it was about to become not knowing that it was so much easier to dream about that world than it would be to eventually live in it.   


  1. Great piece Njonjo! A friend just reminded me that governments are fleeting, principles are not...

  2. Great blog. Should bookmark it. Keep up your great work Sir. Tose of us who can should always speak up for those who are not able to.

  3. Kudos for your presentation at the ASP and this piece also. Some of us who have followed you for almost twenty years now are proud that you continue to represent the progressive and patriotic ideals of this country with admirable consistency. Keep it up!