Otto Saki had to leave his home in Africa last year. “I had no intention of leaving the country but I’d become so targeted because of my work, and I had to look for an opportunity to take a breather,” said Otto, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Columbia Law School and Professor Peter Rosenblum provided one. “If I’d not been able to get a scholarship I couldn’t have come, could not have afforded the plane trip, even,” Otto said.
This past March, Zimbabwe held highly contested elections. Otto has represented Morgan Tsvangirai, the likely winner of the presidency if the Mugabe government releases the vote results. Otto said that after the election he hopes those who drove him to seek safety at Columbia Law School will have less interest in him. When he goes back after graduating, he is prepared for his work in ways he wasn’t before, because law schools there did not have classes in human rights, nor any notion of pro bono work, public interest law or litigating human rights issues, he said.
Otto and his wife have weathered their first winter and are both looking forward to their return home to his work at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. “I am glad I came,” Otto said. “I feel that now I am a very different lawyer and very different activist.”