Dr Nancy Baraza is looking resplendent in a dark skirt suit and pearls. Does she always look this good? I ask her aloud.
“Yes,” she says. “I am teaching and training lawyers, judges and chief justices of the future. I tell them this is how lawyers dress.”
The first deputy Chief Justice under the 2010 Constitution, Ms Baraza had big plans for her career before it all ended after an incident at the Village Market in Nairobi.
After serving as deputy chief justice, she had her eyes set on the top job of Chief Justice.
She had planned to retire to the classroom, shaping the next crop of young lawyers.
Those plans changed dramatically when she behave inappropriately towards a security guard. Everything went south from then on. She was ousted before the end of her term.
Back then, she was the most powerful woman in the Judiciary. She even had a hotline to the President.
But it was the other phone that kept ringing.
“I got invitations to places I couldn’t keep up with. But once the job went, they all fled. No calls. No invitations. In fact, I am reminded Ndemo (former PS, Ministry of Information and Communication) once wrote something about that. I should call him so we can have a good laugh,” she says.
About her removal from office, she says: “My experience was bad. It was horrible. I was treated maliciously.”
To this day, she believes that she got the thrashing because she was a woman.
“Had I been a man, I wouldn’t have been treated that way. If you use Nancy to set the standards of ethics and integrity, then stick to those standards,” she says.
LIFE AT UON
Dr Baraza is a Quaker and found comfort in prayer and meditation.
“My name was totally messed up. Nobody wanted to relate to me. Even if I wanted to practice, nobody wanted to give me work.”
But she has put all that behind her. You don’t drive a girl out of town, she says.
“If you drive a girl out of the city, she will always get ideas.” So, what is she up to these days?
After she was removed as deputy chief justice, she started farming on her 200 acres in Kwale County where she grows pineapples.
She also keeps 200 goats and was recently in Dubai and Qatar to “look for international markets” for her goats.
However, on a typical day, one is more likely to find her in her massive, white-and-baby-blue office at the University Of Nairobi’s School of Law, Parklands Campus.
She was recently appointed chairperson of the Public Law department.
When she is not in class teaching — she says she does not carry notes to the lecture hall — she is running the department.
The word “awesome” keeps rolling off her tongue.
“University of Nairobi is an awesome place, full of rich tradition. They are treating me very well. I mean, look at this office!” she says.
“I love what I am doing now. I want to revitalise the department. We have a new dean, we have a new management. Everything is so organised and neat. Please write that,” she says.
Ms Baraza also took time to work on her PhD, which she completed in December last year. Her thesis was on Gender and Human Rights. She successfully defended it and graduated from the University of Nairobi. So now you can call her Dr Nancy Baraza.
She agreed to this interview chiefly because she wants to clear up something she read in the newspapers about herself.
Someone analysed the politics of Bungoma County and listed Ms Baraza as one of the top contenders for the woman representative seat.
No, she is not running for office. Politics is not on her agenda, at least for now. She says she is quite happy as a lecturer.
“If I get into politics, I would like to run for governor of Bungoma or Nairobi. Not the Woman Rep seat. I think I am fit for the governor’s job.”