OCTOBER 2009

Donatus Sinsai Donatus Sinsai: (1984 Law and French)

I am currently working in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in its Appeals Chamber Support Unit, as a Translator/Reviser

1. How did you get to where you are now?

It was a long road. After leaving Keele in 1984, I went to the Montreal School of Translation in 1985. Following that, I worked as a translator in the President’s Office in Yaounde, Cameroon, for 14 years. One would be right to imagine that it is boring to sit in one office for 14 years and do nothing but translate official documents for official purposes, as well translate in various conferences for conference participants in diverse fields. In this sense, a translator is a restless worker, who tries different things in life (a sort of Jack of all trades) in order to stave off the boredom that may creep in. In line with this reasoning, I started looking at other options, especially as my own country was experiencing the slump of the 1980s and 1990s in its own way and trying to fight it in its own way too. It ushered in a severe pay cut in the order of 70% overall except for the army and the police. The devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 did not help matters much. Thus I started looking for a way of becoming an international civil servant, and I did become one with a UN Tribunal. It is true that the organisation in which I am working as a translator/reviser is an ad hoc structure and it will soon end when the trials it is conducting are over. But securing an appointment there was worthwhile.

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievement so far has been to move from a translator position to a translator/reviser position within seven years in my present organisation, a feat I never succeeded in achieving in 14 years in my first organisation.

3. And your biggest mistake?

My biggest mistake was not to have started looking for an international job earlier than I did.

4. What are your ambitions now?

My ambition now is to look for a position in a permanent structure where I could work until retirement sets in.

5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

To gird their loins and be prepared to work in a field that is highly competitive because the brain has to remain sharp and ready to meet any new challenge that is bound to come their way. Translation in the field of international criminal justice does not seem to be exhausted. There will always be need for translation in this area, and so any aspirants must first have a solid professional background.

6. What made you choose Keele University?

My sponsors were foresighted enough to choose Keele for me and I do not regret their choice. Some overzealous people I have met in the work in the work place seem to have had a serious misconception of the Keele graduate, believing, for example, that, in my case, I did French with a dash of Law, and not realising that a joint honours course was more profound than that.

7. How has Keele influenced your life?

Keele helped expose me to the world. As the world in miniature, it was very unlikely that I would leave Keele just as I came.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?

I remember fondly those summer days when winter and the cold were in the past, and I did not have to think about the next essay in Law or the next tutorial with some of my more difficult profs in the French department.

9. And your worst?

I experienced a very difficult moment in T1 French when one of our very dynamic lecturers, Paul Anthony Smith, died suddenly playing 5-a-side.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

Only to thank Forever Keele for opening this page to me so that I could set the record straight for whoever may be interested to know what Keele was like in our own days. Recently my parish priest in Church of Our Saviour in The Hague mentioned that he travelled to the US and met former parishioners, some of whom had “stolen” the church hymnal as a souvenir. Well, may the record show here that I took away from Keele Chapel two copies of Psalms and Canticles, one red and the other blue. May the record also show that Father Sandy Brown authorised me to remove those hymnals as a souvenir and also to cure my nostalgia since those are the same we used in secondary school in the early 70s, and I never had a personal copy.