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FATOU BENSOUDA – The African World’s 2011 Ten Most Interesting Africans

Newly Appointed Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court


Ask any contemporary of Fatou Bensouda from her school days in the Gambia about one word that best describes her and invariably the answer is: Smart.  One moment that cemented her reputation among Gambians as the smartest person in the room was a debate between Gambia High School, the government run school Bensouda attended, and its arch rival, St. Joseph’s, a private Catholic school.


As the story goes, St. Joseph’s was ahead in the debate. Unable to bear the drubbing her school was taking, Bensouda, who was not a member of the debate team, suddenly rose from the audience and, turning to the lady chairing the debate, said, “Madam Presiding Officer, may I have the floor.” Without waiting for an answer, Bensouda strode confidently to the stage and with a spell-binding display of extemporaneous oratorical skills, she brilliantly dismantled the principal arguments of the St. Joseph’s side. The audience applauded wildly. Gambia High was declared winner of the debate. And Bensouda became a national star.


Upon graduation from her beloved Gambia High, Bensouda matriculated to the University of Ife in Nigeria, form where she obtained a law degree with honors.  She returned home to build a stellar career in government service and the private practice of law, culminating in her tenure from 1998 to 2000 as Attorney General or Justice Minister of the Gambia.


Bensouda then launched an equally stellar career as an international civil servant with her work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where she served first as Legal Advisor and Trial Attorney before rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and head of the Legal Advisory Unit. She later joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) as Deputy Prosecutor in 2004, a position she held until December 12, 2011, when she was chosen to serve as the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, replacing Louis-Moreno Ocampo of Argentina.

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