opinionBy Peter AnaminyiOne of the most significant moments in the careers of both Barack and Michelle Obama was their admission to Harvard Law School.
Harvard is the ultimate law school in the world, and this was one of the points raised by Obama during his 2004 keynote address to the US Democratic Party Convention, when he mentioned the fact that despite their backgrounds, both his father and himself had been to Harvard, and that this was only possible in America.
Among the school's other prominent alumni are more than a dozen current and former US Supreme Court Justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, and the majority of sitting US Senators with law degrees.
Before President Obama went to Harvard, however, many Kenyans preceded him. And after he left many others followed him there. Peter Anaminyi ([email protected]) shares their stories of success
Barack Obama Snr, Economist, Central Bank of Kenya
Probably the most famous indigenous African in history to have attended Harvard University, Barack Obama Snr grew up herding his father's goats in Kogelo and attending the local school.
He later went to study econometrics at the University of Hawaii, where he graduated in the summer of 1962. He was the first African student to join the university.
At Hawaii he was a model student and was offered two scholarships to work towards a doctorate. He chose to go to Harvard.
In 1965 he left Harvard for Kenya. Obama Snr's first job in Kenya was as an economist with Shell, but he soon landed a job in government, working for the Central Bank of Kenya.
He later worked for the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation and the Ministry of Finance. In 1971 he went back to Hawaii to see his young son, the future president of the United States. He would later die in 1982 in a car accident.
Chris Kirubi, Industrialist
A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Dr Christopher John Kirubi, EBS, is a renowned industrialist with over 40 years of business experience and interest in fast-moving consumer goods, media, and communications.
He serves as the chief executive officer and chairman of the Capital Group. He is also chairman of DHL East Africa, Haco Industries Kenya Limited, Kiruma International Limited, Uchumi Supermarkets, Lowe Scanad, International House Limited, Nairobi Bottlers Limited, and Sandvik East Africa Limited.
He was crowned Africa CEO of the year at the 2015 Africa CEO Forum Awards, and was appointed as a member of Harvard University's Global Advisory Council in 2012
Hilary Ng'weno, Media Personality
The first Kenyan to go to Harvard, Ng'weno was also the first African editor-in-chief of the Daily Nation.
He was born on June 28, 1938 in Nairobi, and went to Mang'u High School before leaving for Harvard University in the US, where he graduated with a degree in nuclear physics in 1961. Ng'weno returned to Harvard as the first African fellow of the Harvard Center for International Affairs between 1968 and '69.
Other than editing the Nation, he was the founding editor of The Weekly Review, Kenya's longest running political magazine, and The Nairobi Times. After 24 years of producing The Weekly Review he moved to television, launching a TV station, STV, and also producing a number of documentaries, including the extremely influential The Making of a Nation: Kenya's Political History, 1957-2007.
Ng'weno has also made significant public contributions in other spheres of the nation. He has chaired a number of organisations, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Revenue Authority and the Advisory Board of the Rockefeller Foundation's African Forum for Children's Literacy in Science and Technology.
Julia Ojiambo is a woman of many firsts. She was the first Kenyan woman to study at the prestigious Harvard University School of Public Health, and the first to receive a PhD degree from the University of Nairobi, where she would also be the first African woman to be appointed a lecturer.
She was the first woman to be appointed an assistant minister in independent Kenya, and she was the only woman among the top political leaders who, in 2007, formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
Joseph Lekuton, Member of Parliament, Laisamis
In his early 20s, Lekuton left for America to study at St Lawrence University in New York. He taught at the Langley School in McLean, Virginia, before leaving for Harvard University, where he earned a Master's degree in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
On the eve of his graduation at Harvard, Lekuton would tell the Harvard Gazette: "My mother has no idea what Harvard is... . Other people enjoy my success coming to Harvard, and she has no idea. My whole family cannot comprehend what's going on.
They don't even know what school is."
On one visit to his home, the elders in Laisamis told him to help the community. His was one of the most backward constituencies in Kenya, where people had to be transported in a wheelbarrow for 20 to 30 kilometres to hospital.
They told him: "We want you to be our eyes; we will give you the legs."
His book, Facing the Lion: Growing up Maasai in the African Savanna, was published by the National Geographic.
Kiraitu Murungi, Senator, Meru
Murungi graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from University of Nairobi in 1977 and attained a Masters of Law qualification from the same university in 1982.
He then went for another Master's degree in law at Harvard Law School in 1991, while in exile. He was a partner in a law firm he founded together with Gibson Kamau Kuria, where he practised law for 10 years, largely representing political prisoners of the Moi government. His line of duty forced him into exile, and on his return he joined the newly formed Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) following Kenya's return to multi-party politics in 1991.
He has been a Member of Parliament since 1992 and has formerly served as Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Minister for Energy.
Makau Mutua, SUNY Distinguished Professor
Mutua is a former dean at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, where he served as dean for seven years (2008 to 2014).
He teaches international human rights, international business transactions and international law. He was educated at the University of Nairobi, the University of Dar-es-Salaam and Harvard Law School.
At Harvard he completed his Master of Laws in June 1985 and his Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in June 1987. He was also Associate Director of the Human Rights Programme at Harvard Law School from 1991 to 1996.
Mutua is a vice-president of the American Society of International Law and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was named to the 2012, 2013 100 Most Influential Black Lawyers in the USA.
Sylvia Kang'ara, Dean, Riara University Law School
Sylvia Kang'ara was appointed founding Dean of Riara University Law School in April 2012. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of Nairobi in 1996, Master of Laws (LLM) degree at Harvard Law School in 1998, and Doctor of Juridical Sciences (SJD) from Harvard in 2003.
She subsequently joined the New York law firm, White & Case, LLP as an international legal associate in the firm's project finance and equipment leasing practice.
An expert in comparative private law and property theory, she has taught in several institutions, most recently at the University of Washington School of Law in the US, and the University of Perugia in Italy.
Kivutha Kibwana, Governor, Makueni County
Prof Kivutha Kibwana was born in Mwanyani, a remote part of Nzaui District in Makueni County. He attended Machakos School for his O' & A' Levels, and holds a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Nairobi and a Masters of Law Degree from the University of London; Masters of Law Degree from the Harvard Law School; a Masters in Arts -- Theological Studies from Africa International University; and a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) from George Washington University, USA.
Arguably the most educated Governor in Kenya, he has been a Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi; a Member of Parliament for Makueni Constituency, Minister of both Land and Settlements and Environment & Natural Resources; and in 2007 Presidential Adviser on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Youth Affairs.
Joel Ngugi, Judge of the High Court of Kenya
Prof Joel Ngugi obtained his LLB from University of Nairobi in 1996, LLM from Harvard in 1999 and his Doctor of Juridical Sciences from Harvard Law School in 2002.
At Harvard, he was one of two recipients of the John Gallup Laylin Prize in International Law in 2002. He practised law with the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag, LLP, as a corporate and international litigation associate before joining the University of Washington law school faculty in 2004. He also practised law with Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates in Nairobi.
Prof Ngugi has worked with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and conducted research work for the Global Coalition for Africa/World Bank, Programme on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University, and at the Global Trade Watch Division of the Public Citizens, Inc in Washington, DC.
Abdikadir Mohamed, Senior Adviser to the President
Abdikadir Hussein Mohamed has a Bachelor's law degree from University of Nairobi and a Master's degree from Harvard University in the same field. He was elected to represent the Mandera Central Constituency in the National Assembly in 2007, and while in Parliament he was the chairman of the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee.
He opted not to defend his seat in 2013 and was subsequently appointed as a senior adviser to the President on constitutional and legislative affairs.
He was the co-chair of the Presidential Taskforce on Parastatal Reforms which made dramatic recommendations for the reform of the parastatal sector. Abdikadir was awarded the German Africa Prize in 2010.
Kabiru Kinyanjui, Chairman, Kenya National Examinations Council
Prof Kabiru Kinyanjui has a Phd from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also a graduate of the University of East Africa, Dar-es-Salaam, and is a member of the Governing Board of Unesco International Institute of Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA).
He has chaired many national and international boards, commissions and university committees, and has published widely on education and training policies, youth employment, micro-finance and social policy issues in Africa.
obtained his LLB from University of Nairobi in 1996, LLM from Harvard in 1999 and his Doctor of Juridical Sciences from Harvard Law School in 2002.
At Harvard, he was one of two recipients of the John Gallup Laylin Prize in International Law in 2002. He practised law with the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag, LLP, as a corporate and international litigation associate before joining the University of Washington law school faculty in 2004.
He also practised law with Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates in Nairobi. Prof Ngugi has worked with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and conducted research work for the Global Coalition for Africa/World Bank, Programme on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University, and at the Global Trade Watch Division of the Public Citizens, Inc in Washington, DC.
Henry K Rotich, Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury
Rotich holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University. He also holds MA and BA degrees in Economics from University of Nairobi. Prior to his appointment in 2013, Rotich was the head of macroeconomics at the Treasury, Ministry of Finance, for seven years.
Before joining the Ministry of Finance, he worked at the Central Bank of Kenya for 12 years, and was attached to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) local office in Nairobi as an economist between 2001 and 2004.
He has been a director of several boards of state corporations, including Insurance Regulatory Board, Industrial Development Bank, Communication Commission of Kenya and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
Adan Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation and Enterprise Development
Adan is an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School and an alumni of the University of Nairobi, where he graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Commerce (Accounting option).
He is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
Prior to his Cabinet appointment in 2013, he was the Chief Administrative Officer for Barclays Africa, with responsibility for 10 subsidiaries in the continent.
In addition, he was responsible for brand and marketing, corporate communications and citizenship across Barclays Africa businesses.
Prior to joining Barclays, he worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers (London) in the Management Consultancy and Business Advisory Services section. His international career has seen him serve in the UK, US and Africa. He currently serves as the Chairman of the African Council of Ministers for Industry.
Amolo Ng'weno, Founder, Africa Online
Ng'weno is the daughter of Hilary Ng'weno and followed in her father's footsteps to Harvard. She holds a BA in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard University and a Master's in Public Affairs from Princeton University. She co-founded Africa Online in 1994, while still a student at Harvard, with two other Kenyans.
Africa Online is now the largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Africa. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, it offers Internet access and operates in 10 Africa countries.
She has worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was the deputy director in the Financial Services for the Poor team in the Global Development Programme, and since 2011 as Managing Director of Digital Divide Data Kenya, a unique business process outsourcing company.
Isis Nyong'o, Asphalt & Ink
Isis is a principal at strategic advisory firm Asphalt & Ink, and the cousin of Hollywood sensation Lupita Nyong'o. She has blazed the way into IT and technology for the next generation and was involved in the launch of MTV Networks in Africa before joining Google as a business development manager.
In 2011 she became vice president and managing director of the African operations of InMobi, the world's largest independent mobile advertising network. She was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012, one of Africa's Top 20 Youngest Power Women by Forbes, one of Kenya's Top 40 Women Under 40 by Business Daily, Top 100 Dynamic Women Changing Africa by Arise magazine, as well as IT News Africa's Top 10 Women in ICT.