Christian Andole was perhaps the youngest advocate to submit at the BBI appeal hearing last week.
He excited netizens, with Nairobi-based lawyer Steve Ogolla, in a tweet, praising him for his courage and confidence, and describing him as a breakaway star.
Not known to many before the final day of the BBI appeal, Andole, 26, was admitted to the bar four months ago but battled for space alongside senior lawyers, making passionate submissions before the seven-judge bench.
He says he was there to represent wananchi. At one point, he had to read an article of the Constitution in Kiswahili, telling court he wanted the common man to understand his submissions.
He equally sent some netizens into a frenzy with his reference to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Others, however, felt he should have quoted the Constitution rather than Achebe.
“When I hold her hand she says ‘don’t touch,’ when I hold her foot she says ‘don’t touch,’ but when I hold her waist she pretends not to know. When you hold the waist beads of the state and ask them who is the initiator of BBI, they pretend not to know,” Andole said at the hearing.
Andole was treading into new territory. Until Friday, the young advocate had yet to make submissions before a court; neither before a judge nor before a magistrate.
So how did he get the opportunity to appear before the judges?
Andole works at Professor Albert Mumma and Company Advocates. However, he was not representing his company at the Court of Appeal.
His first job, however, was cleaning toilets at Natives Sports Bar along Thika Superhighway. Then he was still on campus. He told the Star on Saturday that he had to get that extra cash to support his education.
His shift was from 4.30pm to 5.30am on most days and he would go to Lower Kabete hostels to catch some sleep before going to class. It wasn’t easy, he says.
“As my fellow students woke up at 8am to head to Parklands, I was still trying to get some sleep. I would miss most of the first lessons because I would get to school late,” he says.
“My shift at Natives would start at 4.30pm so I would make sure I leave Parklands campus on time to get to work on time.”
He graduated from the University of Nairobi in 2018 and joined the Kenya School of Law the following year. Andole joined Professor Mumma’s law firm for his pupilage and that’s where he has been since.
He says his parents wanted him to study medicine but he chose law.
“My parents never wanted me to study law; being a nurse in Baragoi, my dad had a strong belief that in the field of medicine you can never lack work. I am a Mang’u alumnus and throughout my four years there, all I heard was medicine and engineering,” he said.
However, while at Mang’u—where he served as school captain—he saw Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia on TV arguing the famous Digital Migration case. He was so fascinated by his submissions that he quickly fell in love with law and knew that’s where his future lay.
His admission to UoN marked his journey into the legal profession. Andole says he was just a village boy when he joined campus and was intrigued by the mansions he saw on his way from Lower Kabete to Parklands campus.
The marvels of the city motivated him to work even harder, but he has never forgotten the village life. Andole says that given that background, he understood what he meant by the common mwananchi during his submissions.
“At the Court of Appeal, I needed just to break it down to make it so simple for the court and the common man to understand and even apply very simple principles. That’s why I told the court ‘I will read the Constitution in Kiswahili,’” he said.
He says looks up to his boss who has taught him the art of breaking down complex arguments into very simple ones comprehensible by the common man.
He says mentioning cattle rustling in Baragoi is close to his heart because that’s where his father plies his trade. And he could not forget his shoeshiner at Upper Hill, Nairobi.
“What I was doing there (the Appeal Court) had no financial incentive to it, none at all; What I was doing was just to represent the common mwananchi.”
Andole says he is still a budding lawyer and is being nurtured by his seniors. He thanked his boss, Prof Mumma, for allowing him to be away from work for four days to focus on the BBI case.
Even though he passionately presented on constitutional issues, he is more interested in intellectual property matters. He credits hard work and determination for his success thus far, saying he works hard on everything he does, be it a simple case or a difficult one.
“It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to even find me having appeared on that podium.”