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Graduand Spotlight; Imani Jaoko Top Student Law, Class of 2017

Zealous, passionate and ambitious, best describe 21 year old Strathmore Law School student Imani Jaoko, who is set to graduate top of her Law class with a 1st class honours this June.

The student, who is not new to attaining top grades – she attained a straight A’ mean grade in her KCSE national examination before joining Strathmore University, has enjoyed a fruitful four year tenure. She achieved major success when she took part in publishing the first ever Strathmore Law Review journal in January 2016.

“The title of my dissertation was In Defence of The Formal Recognition of The Doctrine of Odious Debts: A Study on African Debts. Odious (extremely unpleasant) debt is a concept in International Law and International Economic Law. The basic argument is that, when countries (mostly third world) incur debt (usually from first world countries and international financial institutions), and this debt is squandered in corruption and other illicit activities, and the donors know about it, then these countries should not be required to repay the debt especially because it is successive generations that are usually forced to carry this burden yet they clearly did not benefit from it.”

This concept has not obtained legal and formal recognition in law, a matter that encouraged Imani to study further to discover whether recognition in international law would offer the much needed debt-relief to African nations.

“My study examined how such a system would work; which debts should be forgiven; what criteria should be used to declare that a country indeed has an odious debt; and how such a system should be operationalized.”

Imani chose to focus on African loans stemming from the fact that many African countries have been in debt since independence. Most recently, a significant surge in acquiring public loans for various projects has been implemented, due to the debt issue.

“The argument is not that debt is bad, but that when the borrowed money is squandered, it is unjust to make future generations continue to pay it off yet it never benefited the country. It means that future generations will lose a lot to paying ‘ghost loans’.

My findings confirmed that indeed there are several debts that have been incurred by African countries and continue to be incurred that could be classified horrible, with donor institutions very much aware and complicit in some of this. I suggested some ways in which such a concept could come to be accepted as a rule in International Law.”

Aside from the project, Imani is excited about the upcoming graduation attributing her success to God’s grace upon her, through the blessings that carried her through the four years; and also the fact that she enjoyed the course.

Matters such as; proper planning and organization, consistency, diligence, perseverance, patience and having a great support system- family, friends and teachers, also played a significant part to her great achievement.

“Over and above that, I made a conscious effort to not take on too much, to breathe often, and to take breaks that will allow me to enjoy myself where possible in an effort to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I tried my best to enjoy the four years as more than just an academic task but also a chance to meet great people and to network.”

The second born of two children is grateful to her parents, her role models, who taught her everything she needed to becoming who she is today.

She looks up to; Ory Okolloh Mwangi, Desmond Tutu, the Obamas, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dambisa Moyo, Melinda Gates, Angela Merkel, Sheryl Sandberg, Pope Francis, and many others to inspire her to work harder.

“While in second year I co-founded the Strathmore Law Review, which is an academic journal for law students to publish articles and commentaries on various legal topics. I served as the Managing Editor for two years during which we successfully published three volumes of the Review. If I am to be honest, I do not think I felt at any one time that I had achieved balance, even now in hindsight. There were seasons when one side of things seemed to be prospering more and other aspects seemed to be lacking, and I was convinced that I was dropping the ball. On the other hand there were seasons when they seem to be working well together. When I think about balance I try to remind myself that done is better than perfect. So it was just important to allocate time to do something and do it to my best before moving on to the next thing without getting unnecessarily hung up.”

Working with a great team at the Law Review was relieving for Imani, as she did not carry everything concerning the journal on her shoulders.

Imani wishes to be working on public policy and governance issues, after attained a masters, and passing Kenya School of Law in her next 5-10 years.

She enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging, and swimming as well as reading, when she is not working on any Law matters.

“I am also a sports fanatic so if there is a football, tennis or basketball match, I am probably watching it or following updates closely. I generally like to have fun- I go out with my friends, watch movies etc. I think life must be balanced so I don’t like to feel like school and academics are my whole life. There’s so much more than that.”



Congratulations to Imani on her great success!!!