BIOGRAPHY OF AMBASSADOR JUSTICE
THERESE STRIGGNER SCOTT
The story begins on 29th October 1932, when Therese was born to Catherine Ewuresi Katsina Botchway, popularly known as “Ewuraba Katsina” renowned and wealthy businesswoman and producer of textiles, and also United Africa Company’s (now Unilever) Agent in Ghana, and Otto Sturzenegger, an expatriate Swiss National, then a General Manager at the United Trading Company in Ghana.
Therese was the second born of three siblings, the elder being Mrs. Ruth Botsio, and the younger, Ms. Rita Fardis, her dear sisters, both of blessed memory. She spent her early years in the coastal town of Apam, with her sister Ruth (this was before her sister Rita was born) and first cousins, under the care of their grandmother, Madam Mercy Wilson (“Naa Panyin”). No one in the Gold Coast could spell or pronounce her surname Sturzenegger, and on one occasion when collecting a school transfer certificate, her name had been spelt Striggner. From this point onwards, that became her surname as it seemed to be easier to spell and pronounce!
Otto Sturzenegger (Father of Therese Striggner Scott)
born circa 1896, died in Bern 1959 (aged 63)
Catherine Ewuresi Katsina Botchway, popularly known
as “Ewuraba Katsina” Therese Striggner Scott's mother
In Apam, she loved to spend time at the seaside, and swim in the lovely natural bay that adorned the coastline. One day, she got caught in an undercurrent and remembers being slowly swept out to sea. However, the shouts and screams of her friends and the fishermen calling out her nickname ‘Sisie, Sisie!’ somehow enabled her to garner the strength she needed to swim back to shore. Later on, in Achimota School her swimming skills would earn her a position on the swimming team.
Therese started boarding school life early, when her mother (an alumni of Wesley Girls), enrolled her at Achimota Primary school. This began her Achimota journey, from lower primary, upper primary and then to the secondary school. She told the story of how the primary school pupils were evacuated to Aburi Botanical Gardens from 1942 to 1945, to make way for the Royal West African Frontier Forces, to use the Achimota Primary school buildings as accommodation. Ironically, this was about the time that her future husband Kenneth Scott (Winky), was in the Gold Coast, as a member of the said Royal West African Frontier Forces, having enlisted in 1939.
She loved her days at Achimota School, and was a champion swimmer for her house, Slessor House. She formed many friendships, notable amongst them was the close bond she formed with Sally Turner and Sophia Holtz (both of blessed memory), as the three of them were inseparable in school. In recent times, she asked one of her former schoolmates why they nicknamed her “Dodokyi” (Achimotan slang for sweet fried plantain) to which he replied, ‘because you were everyone’s favourite!’
Although her seniors at Achimota, she also formed lifelong close friendships with Frances Quarshie-Idun (Ademola) and Rose Taylor of blessed memory. Until her passing, Therese was the President of the 1949 OAA year group, and until the pandemic, would organize their meetings at the Afrikiko restaurant complex, to update them on any current matters pertaining to the school.
After Achimota, Therese’s mother sent her to the UK in 1951 for further education. She initially started courses in accountancy and physiotherapy, before enrolling to pursue Law at Gibson and Weldon School of Law, and the Honourable Society of Middle Temple, London. Therese loved her days in England where she made a lot of lifelong friends, especially from her days at the International Hostel she first lived in, at Hampstead in North West London. She continued to communicate regularly with her hostel mates (fondly referred to as the Hospicians), still living, until her own recent passing.
She was called to the English Bar at Middle Temple in 1959, which was also the year she paid a visit to her father Otto Sturzenegger in Bern, Switzerland. Sadly, soon after her visit, he passed away and she had to return for his funeral.
On completion of her pupillage in the Chambers of Sir John Russell, she returned to Ghana in 1960, and was enrolled as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of the Judicature, and a Member of the Ghana Bar that same year. Her beloved mother and sisters promptly coined the name “Ewuraba Lawyer” for her, being so proud of her achievements. The next generation were to follow in her footsteps as Kojo, Merene, Geta, Edwin, Kwame and Zoe became lawyers.
Therese began work at the Attorney General’s department as Assistant State Attorney, during the tenure of Attorney General Geoffrey Bing. In 1961, she was asked to join a delegation to a UN conference on Diplomatic Immunities in Vienna, Austria.
This is where she met her first husband, Ambassador Kodjoe Dadzie, then head of the legal department at Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was also part of the same delegation. They got married in August 1961, following which her husband was made Ambassador to Rumania in early 1962. Geta (short for Georgetta, a Rumanian name), her only surviving biological child, was born in Accra in 1962, following which Therese joined her husband with Geta on his postings to Rumania, France and for a limited time, in the then Soviet Union. Therese was devoted to her beloved daughter, Geta, who was the love of her life. By her marriage to Ambassador Dadzie, she also became “mother” to Yasmin, Stella, Barry, and Gary (Gary sadly predeceased her).Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce, and Therese returned to Ghana in 1969, where she was advised by her former senior in Achimota School, the then Solicitor General Robert Hayfron-Benjamin, to join the Bench. She rose through the ranks from the level of Magistrate, eventually becoming a High Court Judge.
She served as the President of the Ghana Branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) between 1975 and 1977, leading the Ghana delegations to Liberia and Nigeria, and later participating in FIDA’s Convention in Santa Fe in the U.S, where she co-chaired the committee on ‘Legal Protection of the Child’. As a member of the Advisory Committee of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, in April 1976, she, together with the late Chief Justice Sowah, then Justice of the Court of Appeal, co-chaired the Judicial Administration Committee of the Academy’s Convention held in Abidjan, in February 1977. Therese was also appointed a member of the Judicial Council in 1980.
During this period, she met her second husband, Kenneth Winky Scott, a British architect living and working in Ghana, whom she married in 1971. Therese and Winky shared a very close and special relationship, and enjoyed travelling the world, and entertaining at their Tuesday open house evenings at the Scott House, or at their riverside chalet in Ada. Sadly, Winky passed away suddenly in 1982, leaving Therese a young widow at the age of 50, with her sister Ruth and brother-in-law Kojo Botsio (Uncle B) always at her side to console her. Until her passing, Therese continued to maintain a close relationship with Winky’s daughter Tamsin, who currently resides in Australia, Winky’s country of birth.
The Scott House, designed and built by Winky in 1959, is a timeless and iconic architectural building, which Therese preserved with pride until her passing. Over the years, the Scott House has been featured in several international design publications, including but not limited to an article in The Guardian “Giants of modernist architecture”, and the book “African Modernism – Architecture of Independence” published by Park Books.
Therese was heartbroken after Winky’s passing and needed a change of scenery. In 1983, she applied through the Commonwealth Secretariat for a position on the Zimbabwean bench becoming the first woman, in the country’s judicial history, to be appointed to the High Court of Zimbabwe. She tells the story of the habitual 11 am coffee breaks of the judges of the High Court in Zimbabwe, and her first appearance in the Judges common room on her first day at work. Judge McNally (who later became a good friend) pronounced to the hearing of all, “We do have a problem Your Ladyship, as there is only one loo and that is designed for men, something has to be done about you”. Heads were quickly put together and by the following day, one of the cubicles in the washroom for senior female court workers in the building was labeled, “Private - Justice Scott” and kept under lock and key! Problem solved! Therese loved the brisk pace of the work in the courts in Harare. This was to be an interesting point in her career where a lot of murder cases before her reflected the still simmering political turmoil Zimbabweans had been through. After serving in Zimbabwe for a few years, she was then invited by the Government of Ghana to serve as Ghana’s Ambassador to France in 1986.
Thence began a 12-year diplomatic career in 1986, to serve as Ghana’s Ambassador to France, whilst acting also as the Permanent delegate to UNESCO for 8 years, and later cross posted to Rome as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), WFP (World Food Programme), and the IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) for 4 years. Therese excelled in her role as a diplomat having already been well exposed to the art of diplomacy, during her marriage to her first husband, Ambassador Kodjoe Dadzie. She tremendously enjoyed her years serving her country as Ambassador. During this period, she was also accredited to several other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and the Vatican.
In January 1989, Ambassador Scott was decorated with the Grand Croix de L’Ordre de Pie IX, a Papal Honour conferred by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his papacy, much to the delight of her sister Ruth, who was a staunch Catholic. She also received the Grand Patron of the Arts, an award bestowed on her by the Ghana Association of Writers. In 1991, Therese became the First African woman to be elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO (this election at the time was personal to her and was not then based on state representation), serving also as a member of the Legal Commission of UNESCO in 1993, and elected Chairperson of the African Group of Ambassadors at UNESCO. As a member of the Conventions and Recommendations Commission of the UNESCO Board, they received complaints of human rights and political abuses practiced by governments against political opponents, and interceded with the defendant Governments, for the respect of the victims’ human rights.
As Chairperson and Spokeswoman of the African Group of Ambassadors accredited to UNESCO in 1993, she led the Group on matters that were of special importance to Africa, such as organizing financial assistance to African students stranded behind the former Iron Curtain, after the collapse of Communism. Therese was appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat to serve on the Goldstone Commission in South Africa from June to August 1993, which was a standing Commission of Inquiry, set up to find ways and means of curbing public violence and intimidation in South Africa, prior to, during and post the first democratic elections, scheduled for 1994. That year she also became the Dean of the Commonwealth Group of Ambassadors accredited to France. As Ambassador in France and Italy, she led many delegations to various FAO, IFAD, UNESCO, ITU, WTO and World Bank/IMF meetings and conferences. Later on, when serving in Italy, her accreditation to WFP involved critical and swift decisions to fly food aid to countries struck by tragedies, as well as those inundated with an influx of refugees fleeing wars and genocide. In 1994 Therese also served as Executive Director on the Executive Board of IFAD.
Following her diplomatic career, Therese returned to Ghana, and her close relationship with her sister Ruth deepened, and they were absolutely devoted to each other. In her own words, they “became a pair - inseparable” and were seen everywhere together. Their younger sister, Rita, had unfortunately pre-deceased them, and Ruth and Therese were committed to ensuring that Rita’s children, particularly the younger ones, who Rita had tragically left behind at a tender age, were well cared for and educated. Indeed, Rita’s children; Catherine, Ruth and Vera had lived with Therese in Zimbabwe, France, and Italy, whilst Jones and Winky resided with her sister Ruth in Ghana. Being back in Ghana meant Therese could spend more time with her daughter Geta, whom she loved unconditionally, and her grandchildren PD, Katsina and Nii k, to whom she was totally dedicated.
Therese set up a legal consultancy, Tessina Consult, when she returned to Ghana in 1998. During this period, she continued to serve on a number of international assignments. In 1999, together with 17 others, she was invited by UNESCO’s Director General Federico Mayor, to serve on an International Advisory Panel for the Programme: “Toward a Culture of Peace”. In March 1999, she received a UNESCO award ‘In recognition of fostering of understanding among cultures and peoples, and her contribution to the promotion of values of Justice, Equality, Liberty and Solidarity, enshrined in the Organization’s Constitution.” In January 2000, Therese was appointed a member of a UN/UNDP Commission on ‘Africa and the Challenges of the Third Millennium”. For almost 2 years, this Commission met periodically, in different countries, with African Heads of States, impacting the development of the thematic areas of; Democracy and Governance, Peace and Stability, Culture and Technologies, Africa Free of AIDS in the 21st century, Economic challenges, and a New Co-operation for Africa.
Therese found herself back in full time employment, when she was appointed the Executive Chairperson of the Law Reform Commission, between January 2000 and October 2004. Here, she presided over the governing body of the Commission, directing its legal officers in research and data collection, aimed at monitoring Ghana’s laws for timely reform, to reflect society’s needs and changing times. She represented the Commission at various meetings and conferences, organized by ‘think tanks’ such as the CDD, IEA, GTZ and FNF. Whilst at the Law Reform Commission, in March 2001, she also served as a member of the Council of Elders of ECOWAS, established under the ECOWAS protocol, to deal with the mechanism for conflict prevention and management, with a responsibility to render conciliation and mediation services in the member states, in order to diffuse potential conflict situations. During this period, she led a 26-Member ECOWAS team, to monitor the Sierra Leone Parliamentary and Presidential elections in May 2002.
When Therese completed her term with the Law Reform Commission in 2004, she was then appointed, between October 2004 and Jan 2005, to the Darfur Commission set up by the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights laws in Darfur. The Geneva based Commission, made up of Five global legal luminaries, was to determine whether or not acts of genocide had occurred and to identify the perpetrators of such violations to ensure their accountability. This assignment involved trips to Khartoum and Darfur to engage high ranking officials at the Presidency, Judiciary and Executive.
After her illustrious career serving her country and being an international public servant, Therese kept herself occupied with private consulting and Board appointments. She served as a Board member of CDD (Center for Democratic Development) a research and advocacy body, from 2005 until her resignation in 2019. Until her passing, she was also a member of GARIA (Governing Council of the Ghana Association of Restructuring and Insolvency Advisors.
Therese was a known lover of Art and Culture and was greatly influenced by her travels around the world. She collected paintings, Rumanian silverware, Faberge eggs and artefacts, such as her well known Venini bottles and marble eggs, to name a few, that have adorned all her residences, including her official diplomatic residences, the Scott House and more recently her Villaggio apartment.
She was as comfortable walking through the streets of Montmartre in Paris, discovering the art of struggling artists such as Kiro Urdin, a Yugoslavian artist, as she was travelling to see the works of more renowned artists such as Monet and Leonardo da Vinci. A visit to her in Paris was not complete without a visit to the Louvre, or a trip out of Paris to experience the rich history of Louis XIV at the Palais de Versailles. In Italy, she would often spend her weekends at the famous Spanish Steps, browsing artworks and seeking out talent, such as the works of A. Peroy, a Columbian artist.
She loved African art, and from the early 70s, when back in Ghana, she would be seen regularly selecting artefacts at Shop One, owned by her dear friend the late Harriet Jones, or browsing for paintings at her friend Frances Ademola’s shop, The Loom. The artist Victor Butler often visited her in France, whilst exhibiting his works there in the early 90’s. As recently as this past year, Therese couldn’t resist purchasing a colourful painting by Kowalski, whilst agonizing over how she was going to restore a damaged Yusuf Grillo (Nigerian artist) painting.
Therese was always young at heart and would take her visitors to the LIDO in Paris for fine cuisine and cabaret, and more recently in Ghana would be seen at Santoku restaurant frequently with family and friends. She even had dinner this year with younger members of the family at KOZO!
She enjoyed family trips with her late husband Winky, her dear late sister Ruth, Geta, Kenneth, her grandchildren; PD, Katsina and Nii K, Yasmin, Merene, and other various family members, to Isfahan in Persia (before the Iranian Revolution), Lebanon, Bangkok, Bali, Singapore, to Tuscany in the Italian countryside, London, Dubai, a Mediterranean Cruise and New York City, to name just a few. Therese was devastated following the passing of her son in law, Kenneth, on 12th December 2020; and spent time every day thereafter, supporting Geta and her grandchildren.
In a recently updated CV, she described herself as a young at heart, energetic and active grandmother. Suffice it to say that Therese’s was a life well lived!
Therese is survived by her dear daughter, Geta, beloved grandchildren - Peter David, Katsina and Sydney, and other cherished children Yasmin, Stella, and Barry.