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Learned woman: Justice Monageng

When the world counts judges of the International Criminal Court, it counts among the ladies and gentleman of the jury, a woman who comes from the small Southern Africa nation, Botswana. And those who did not know Justice Monageng or had not heard of her, recently did when she and other ICC judges issued a warrant of arrest against embattled, Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi.
Justice Monageng has not only had an illustrious law career but has undoubtedly been a source of inspiration to many women, especially female lawyers and law students.
Sinqoe Tessa had the privilege to brush shoulders with the esteemed woman at the just ended International Media Conference held in Gaborone under the theme: ‘The Battle Against Impunity: Chinks In The Armor.’ Despite the tight conference schedule, Justice Monageng managed to steal a few moments for this one- on- one interview because as she puts it, she will do anything for a girl.

Please introduce yourself
I am Sanji Monangeng, born and grew up in Serowe and did my law degree at the University of Botswana. One of my greatest achievements while I worked here was setting up the Law Society of Botswana. Before my appointment as a judge at the ICC,  I worked in The Gambia and Swaziland respectively as a judge.

Q. Of all the professions, why law, was it your dream career?  
I was never good in sciences but excelled in arts and one of my options for a career path was law so I chose it and I must add I have no regrets about the choice that I made.  I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I have had a very successful law career.

Q. How did it feel to be appointed a judge of the ICC?
When I thought I had reached the climax of my career, when I thought I had achieved a lot, there came the appointment! Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming and will wake up to realize that all is nothing but a dream. I really felt so greatly honoured and not only by my country, but by the whole world because member states of the ICC had to endorse my appointment.  Above all, I will always be thankful to my country and the government for campaigning for me and for giving me all the support I needed to be in the ICC bench.

Q. How long is your contract?
It’s a nine year non-renewable contract so I will be back home in 2018.

Q. And what will you do after that, join politics I guess?
No, not at all, politics is not for me. It’s too early to tell, but I will probably do something that is meant to empower girls and women; that has always been my passion.

Q. What has been the lowest point of your career?
Nothing specific but what I can say is that it’s an uphill struggle to succeed as a woman. As women we always have to work extra hard to prove that we can do it. There are so many obstacles on the road to success but the only thing that one can do is to stay focussed.

Q. Back to ICC. How was it issuing a warrant of arrest against Gaddafi (Libyan president), that somehow put Botswana on the spotlight because I am sure people were like, who is this judge?
My job at ICC has nothing to do with Botswana. Of course the moment you are out there people would want to know more about you.  Issuing the warrant of arrest with the other two judges was part of my work, the prosecution had done enough investigations and had ample evidence to charge Gaddafi with committing war crimes and I am sure he will soon be arrested to answer for his crimes.

Q. There is a perception that ICC is after African leaders, what’s your take on that?
There is no element of truth in that perception, ICC is not after anyone but is there to ensure that those who have committed crimes against humanity, have committed genocide or crimes that call for prosecution by the court are brought to book. All we want is for peace and justice to prevail.

Q. What are some of the things that you have learnt by working at the ICC?
Being out there has made me realize how vulnerable women and children are in times of conflict, it’s just sad. And this is one of the reasons why I want to work with women after leaving ICC. High professionalism, ethics and  impartiality are some of the things that have really been rubbed on me by working at the court.

Q. How do people view Botswana out there?
It is country well respected because of its peace, stability and economic growth and of course for producing intellectuals. I was the first Motswana, a woman for that matter to be appointed judge of ICC and this somehow put Botswana on the global map. People out there know that Botswana can produce some of the best people who can work anywhere in the world.

Q. What is one thing that you miss most when you are in Netherlands?
My family, beautiful weather and the good food, especially traditional dishes.

Q. But how do you keep a balance between your family and your job because you are there alone, right?
It’s not easy but that’s the price that one has to pay sometime. The good thing though is that my children are all grown and they visit me often.

Obviously there are girls and women who look up to you, any words for them?
Never give up on your dream, work hard, believe in yourself and above all remember self development, self development and self development.

Personal profile
Full name: Sanji Mmasenono Monageng
Place of birth: Serowe
Year of birth: 1950
Present country of residence: Hague, Netherlands
Marital status: Single with two children
Pass time: Going to the beach
Mentor: Her mother Keatlaretse Gochani
What she does when home sick: Hooks up with other Batswana living in Netherlands to prepare local dishes especially, Phane


  1. You go girl!Le ba e neele phane eo,Ms whatshername Scott o re sentse leina are it tastes like dogfood.