Andrew Muiruri is a practising lawyer in Kenya currently finishing his LLM Studies in Public International Law at Leiden University. He is an assistant editor of the Leiden Journal of International Law and the Criminal Law Forum Journal. In anticipation of his graduation in August, he is undertaking a three-month internship with a defence team at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He previously interned in the Chambers Support Section of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. Andrew had the opportunity to represent Leiden University and Holland in the International Rounds of the 2012 ICC Moot Court Competition. He is interested in oral advocacy.
| Andrew Muiruri | 6 July 2012 | The Hague, Netherlands |
The idea of coming to Holland became a reality when I was accepted to the Advanced LLM programme in Leiden University in April 2010. However, I opted to finish my bar qualification in Nairobi, Kenya before embarking on further studies in Public International Law. And so it was that I came to Holland in August 2011.
As fate would have it, the school had run out of student accommodation in Leiden. They therefore asked me whether I would mind living in The Hague since the classes would be split between the law faculty in Leiden and The Hague campus. Often referred to as the City of Peace because of all the Courts headquartered in The Hague, I was definitely excited about the prospect of living here. And so it is that I still live in The Hague a few months before I am due to graduate and hopefully return home.
The Netherlands is a wonderful and beautiful country. There is water all over. Canals are the norm of every city or town, big or small. There are so many ducks, and of course, pigeons. Equally amazing are the number of bikes. Everyone has a bike – the professor who takes a train to class from Brussels, the bar tender at the nearest pub and yes, even the top-shot lawyers at the many international courts and tribunals. Perhaps it’s the flatness of the country. There are no hills to slow you down, only the winds that may topple you over. This explains the thousands of wind mills in Holland. Interestingly, I find the biking culture to place everyone on an equal footing, it does not matter the size of your fridge, TV or amount of rent you pay…we are all on bikes.
Of course it’s not all rosy. It rains here almost every 2 days in summer and everyday when it’s not summer. Yet, compared to my tropical home, the rain is nothing. It’s just that it rains all the time: not torrential rains, but a steady rain. One that leaves you wet but does not get inside your shoes. I guess that’s why life goes on unabated in this part of the world.
Another aspect of living in The Hague is the diversity of people living and working here. I once had drinks with friends and someone observed that six continents were represented at that table. I cannot think of a place where this happens regularly, unless you are talking of colleagues at UN offices, say, in New York, Geneva or Nairobi. This means that when you are in The Hague, you would hardly have any language difficulty. Indeed, most of the Dutch people speak English. Being what I call an international city, almost every other person speaks English, French, German, Spanish…I mean, I even bumped into people speaking Swahili. It is truly an international and representative city. Imagine that for the contacts you make afterwards.
The festivals in this part of Europe are also something worth mentioning. I had the opportunity to go to a parade in the south of the country (Maastricht) and was surprised at how long the parade went on. In that part of the country, the parade combines with several others in Belgium and Germany. It is said to be the biggest parade after that of Cologne. That said, the Queen’s Day festival, held each year on 30 April brings everyone from the region to Amsterdam. The camaraderie is exhilarating to say the least. And, at that time, everything is orange – Holland’s national colour.
With all this in mind, I decided it would be a good thing to sample the work life in Holland. It is then that I decided to take a short internship at the ICTY, as I write my thesis due in about ten days with the graduation expected in August. The extra time I had in my hands, having finished my classes in early June meant I could gain some international work experience. I have enjoyed living in Holland. I am glad I made the choice to study here. Indeed, it is a country that offers you everything.