By Prudence Minayo
Betty Kaari Murungi is many things in one-a lawyer of international repute, a mother and wife to firebrand politician James Orengo. Like her husband, the Siaya Senator, she was involved in the clamor for multi-party democracy in the late 80s and 90s. Murungi started out as a commercial lawyer before she veered off to international criminal law after the 1994 Tutsi genocide. In 2022, United Nations Human Rights Council picked the lawyer-alongside law professor Steven Ratner and former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda-to probe violations in the Tigray conflict.
WoK brings you the rich resume of Betty Kaari Murungi.
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Betty Murungi attended the University of Nairobi School of Law before proceeding to the Kenya School of Law. She spent a year as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program researching Transitional Justice Mechanisms.
As mentioned in the introduction, Murungi started her career as a commercial lawyer representing banks and insurance companies. It was during this time that she joined the International Federation of Women lawyers (FIDA)-Kenya, a women lawyers’ organization that offers legal services to indigent women. In between, she was involved in the fight for democracy in Kenya during the reign of the late president Daniel arap Moi.
Also Read: James Orengo Biography, Age, Education, Family, Background and Career
Her trajectory was now inclined to International law following the 1994 genocide that was taking place in Rwanda. The media was skewed towards reporting Mandela’s inauguration and the OJ Simpson trial while the African Union and African leaders remained largely unperturbed. In 1995, she traveled to Rwanda where she met other activists to push for accountability and justice for the horrid crimes that had been committed in the country.
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She went on to work with Rhonda Copelon, at the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, an organization in which she was a co-founder. This organization was meant to make sure gender perspectives were included during the negotiations for International Criminal Court Statute.
For more than a decade, she worked in the prosecutor’s office at the ICTR to ensure the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women. Along with her colleagues, they monitored from the outside and worked with the genocide survivors of Rwanda. She was among the people who worked on the Akayesu case, a case that expanded the definition of rape.
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Some of the highlights of her career include:
- Working as a legal advisor in the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the trial of Japan’s Military sexual slavery. The emperor and high ranking officials from Japan stood trial for crimes committed against women in the second world war.
- Working as a gender consultant for the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Working as a Senior Transitional Justice Advisor to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) in South Sudan.
Between 2009 and 2010, she served as Vice Chairperson and Commissioner to the Kenya Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
Between 2009 to 2013, she was the Africa representative on the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court.
Between 2018 to 2019, she was a member of the independent Commission of Inquiry for the occupied Palestinian Territory appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council
In 2020, she was appointed Professor of Practice at the Center for Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London.
Her career has seen her work in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Northern Uganda and South Sudan.
Betty is the wife of James Aggrey Orengo. The experienced lawyer is a mother of six: Bob Orengo, Steven Orengo, Michael Orengo, Zeni Orengo, Josephine Orengo and Lynette Orengo.
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