Makau W. Mutua

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Makau W. Mutua (born 1958) is a Kenyan-American professor of law. He is the Dean of the University at Buffalo Law School, where he is also a SUNY Distinguished Professor and the Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In December 2012, Mutua was appointed to a four-year term on the recommendation of the Obama Administration to the Board of Advisors of the International Development Law Organization or IDLO which is based in Rome, Italy.

In July 2013, he was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to the Moreland commission to Investigate Public Corruption. In that role, was appointed – as did all the other commissioners – to the rank of Deputy Attorney General by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Mutua was ranked No. 110 by Buffalo Business First in the Power 200 most influential people in 2013 in Western New York. In March 2012, he was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to a three-year term to the board of directors of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. In April 2011, he was appointed to a three-year term by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Judicial Screening Committee for the Fourth Department. In May 2010, he became a member of the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, the first Greek-letter society founded by African-American men in the United States.

In 2003, he was appointed by Kenya's President Kibaki to chair a task force that eventually led to the establishment of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in 2008.[1]


Early life and education[edit]

Mutua was born in 1958 in Kenya, the second of seven children. He received secondary education at Kitui High School and Alliance High School. An excellent student throughout his life, he gained attention in other ways while attending the University of Nairobi with his vocal opposition to the national government. He was arrested in May 1981 for his dissent and was only released after fasting in a hunger strike for several days.[2] He eventually found his way to Tanzania where he applied for United Nations refugee status. He earned a Masters in Law at the University of Dar es Salaam, ultimately attending Harvard Law School in 1984. There he earned an LLM in 1985 and an SJD in 1987.

Legal and academic career[edit]

After graduation from Harvard, he worked for White & Case, a New York City law firm, but later pursued his dreams of human rights advocacy with his work at Human Rights First, then known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. In 1991, he returned to Harvard where he became the Associate Director of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. In 1996, he joined the University at Buffalo Law School faculty. In December 2007, he was appointed Interim Dean at the University at Buffalo Law School and was named the permanent Dean in May 2008.[3] Mutua drew wide praise from the SUNY Buffalo law community for his efforts to open a café and creperie inside O'Brian Hall that was to be called "Scalia's."

Mutua is regarded as a leading figure in human rights, and has written several acclaimed works in the field. He has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, the University of Iowa College of Law, the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica, the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, and the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain. In March 2011, Mutua was elected Vice-President of the American Society of International Law (ASIL). From 2007–2010, he served on the Executive Council of ASIL, and was Co-Chair of its Annual Meeting in 2000. Mutua is a prominent thinker of the movement known as Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), a critical and reconstructionist approach to international law. He sits on the board of directors of Global Rights, and has consulted extensively for NGOs, United Nations agencies, and governments. He lectures frequently on human rights, international law, and African politics around the world. In both 2012 and 2013, Mutua was named by On Being A Black Lawyer (OBABL) among the Power 100: The Most Influential Black Lawyers in the United States.

Kenya government and media activities[edit]

In 2003, while on sabbatical in Kenya, he was appointed by the Government of President Mwai Kibaki Chair of the Task Force on the Establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission which recommended a truth commission for Kenya. He was also a Delegate in 2003 to the Kenya National Constitutional Conference, which produced a contested draft constitution for Kenya. In 2006, he was legal counsel to John Githongo, the former Kenyan anti-corruption czar who exposed the Anglo Leasing scams in the Kibaki Government.

In a seven-year period, Mutua became the leading and most popular columnist for the Sunday Nation, one of the two the main newspapers in East and Central Africa. In September 2013, he departed the Sunday Nation and joined the Standard on Sunday – the Sunday Nation's chief competitor.

Selected works[edit]

  • Kenya's Quest For Democracy: Taming Leviathan (Challenge and Change in African Politics). L. Rienner Publishers. 30 April 2008 ISBN 1-58826-590-0
  • Human Rights NGOs in East Africa: Political and Normative Tensions. University of Pennsylvania Press. 12 September 2008 ISBN 978-0-8122-4112-9
  • Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique. University of Pennsylvania Press. 10 November 2008 ISBN 0-8122-2049-8
  • "Savages, victims, and saviors: the metaphor of human rights". Harvard International Law Journal 42 (1): 201–45. 2001. 


  1. ^ "Makau W. Mutua". 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Elizabeth Stull (9 May 2008). "University of Buffalo School of Law dean escaped, battled, rose to top". Daily Record. 
  3. ^ "Makau Mutua named dean of University of Buffalo Law School". Breaking News Kenya. 8 May 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009.