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Haji: All I wanted was to serve Kenya

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While at Catholic school in Nyahururu, Noordin Haji served as an altar boy, one of the little boys who assist the priest celebrating Mass.

Once in a while, the boys got ideas. When the priest wasn’t looking, they would pinch a few of the hosts, the round unleavened (and unconsecrated) wavers for Holy Communion, to eat in secret. They’re utterly tasteless but the fun was in the filching.

“I kept off the wine, though,” the Director of Public Prosecutions, an observant Muslim, says with a chuckle. “I can certainly say that I have never tasted any alcohol, including when I was an altar boy. Even when I was in the university and had the opportunities, I never did that,” he told the Star in an exclusive interview.

Noordin had a strict upbringing. His father, Garissa senator Yusuf Haji, was a long-serving public administrator between 1970 and 1997, before joining politics. His mother was a teacher.

He describes his parents as “a strict mother and a disciplinarian father”.

Read: Why we chose Haji and Kinoti as the Star Persons of the Year

Born on July 3, 1973, in Garissa, Noordin is from a family of nine children (one deceased). His father is polygamous. Haji Senior’s work as an administrator meant that Noordin moved around the country from an early age.

“I have been to all parts of the country. From Standard 1 to 8, I was in different schools. That allowed me to see the different faces of Kenya,” he says. Haji is a prominent name, not just in Garissa county but also nationally. Yet distinction and repute never went to young Noordin’s head.

“I thank God I come from a privileged background in the sense that I had the advantage of having both my parents. My father was very strict that we remain together as a family. We had a strong family background,” he says.

But Haji Senior was not Mr Disciplinarian, barking orders all the time. “He was also a very humble person, demanding that we [children] be treated equally. He was always available to us,” his son says.

He recalls playing freely with other children and eating mutura or blood sausage in Nyahururu slums. It didn’t matter that he was the son of the District Commissioner.

Although he has been to Christian institutions, Noordin says, “I am a strict Muslim. I adhere to my religion.”

Listening to him, one is struck by the passion with which he speaks about the nation. At a time when globalisation is undermining national identity and the State’s failures have left many citizens alienated from their motherland, Noordin expresses resolute patriotism.

“All I wanted to do in life was to serve my country,” he says. That objective gives him the energy and drive to be the country’s chief prosecutor.

Read: My father didn’t influence my nomination, says DPP hopeful Noordin Haji

Before that, he was deputy director of the National Intelligence Service and for many years worked in the Attorney General’s office.

“My family is very important to me. But the future of my family is tied to a prosperous and peaceful Kenya,” he says.

The fact that his father is a veteran civil servant and powerful politician and his mother a teacher contributed to his patriotism.

But there is another factor. “I was a scout when I was young. It gave me a lot of outdoor experience, enabling me to see the country,” Noordin says.

The scouting movement is the world’s largest youth organisation. It aims to develop young people into responsible and active citizens who contribute to society.

As a scout, Noordin visited many parts of Kenya and travelled abroad to represent the country. “I was at a jamboree in Australia at the age of 14. I represented the country in Ireland and in many other scouting activities,” the DPP says.

Upon completion of primary school, Noordin attended Kabarak High School and then Greensteds International School in Nakuru. From there he went to Wales College, Cardiff, in the UK where he studied law to the master’s level.

He also earned a master’s degree in international security studies in Australia.

Despite his national and global exposure, the DPP is a very private man. “I am reclusive. I don’t go to clubs. I don’t drink. There are very few people I interact with,” Noordin says.

He doesn’t seem to smile a lot in public, at least few photos show him smiling.

And while he’s not a glad-handing kind of man, his work doesn’t give him a lot to smile about.

Noordin says corruption in Kenya has reached “catastrophic levels”, but he is confident the country can be cleaned up.

“I want to assure Kenyans that we are a team. Together with the EACC and the DCI, we are determined to deliver our mandate, be it on corruption, crime, everything under the criminal justice system.”

More:[Statement] Why Noordin Haji wants to be Kenya’s DPP

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