Wairimu Nderitu chosen to be UN special adviser

Tuesday November 17 2020
Wairimu Nderitu.

Wairimu Nderitu is a renowned armed conflict mediator and has had various roles in peace building processes for more than 12 years. In 2017 she won the inaugural Global Pluralism Award. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Wairimu Nderitu the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

In making the announcement on November 10, Mr Guterres described The EastAfrican columnist as "a recognised voice in the field of peace building and violence prevention, having led as mediator and senior adviser in reconciliation processes among communities in her country, Kenya, as well as in other African settings."

Ms Nderitu is a renowned armed conflict mediator who has played varying roles in the conflict prevention and peace building processes for more than 12 years. Her new role will involve collecting relevant information on political, human rights, humanitarian, social and economic developments across the world. This will then help in identifying early warning signs of the risk of atrocious crimes.

She will also play the crucial role of advocating mobilisation of UN system and member states to take effective action in response to situations where populations are at risk of atrocious crimes.

Ms Nderitu, who won the inaugural Global Pluralism Award in 2017 — given by the Global Centre for Pluralism to organisations, individuals and governments who promote peaceful cohesion through pluralism — started her career on a rather different path. 

In 1990, Ms Nderitu graduated from the University of Nairobi with an undergraduate degree in Literature and Philosophy. In 1991, she joined the Prisons Department as a prisons officer and in the following year she was deployed to Lang’ata Women’s Prison in Nairobi, the only women’s maximum security facility. While there she witnessed human rights abuses, according to The Life and Work of Alice Nderitu of Kenya by Stephanie Chiu.


Between 1993 and 1997, she also served as deputy officer in charge of Shimo la Tewa women’s prison. In 2009, Ms Nderitu joined the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) as a commissioner. It was formed in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 post-election violence and sought to forge reconciliation and cohesion among warring communities. She served until 2013. While at the commission, she led mediation teams to Kenya’s conflict hotspots, often finding herself the only woman at the negotiating table with elders.

She also developed peace education curricula and pushed for the implementation of laws on hate speech and hate crime.

Ms Nderitu is the founder of Community Voices for Peace and Pluralism, a network of African women professionals preventing, transforming and solving violent, ethnic, racial and religious conflicts globally, has more than 12 years of experience in conflict prevention and peace building.

Since 2018, she has been a member of the African Union’s Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, officially launched in July, 2017.

She is also a founding member and co-chair of Uwiano Platform for Peace, established in 2010.

Since January 2013, she has served as a member of Kenya National Committee on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and all Forms of Discrimination.