“Makau W. Mutua is a US Kenyan born 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.” That’s Makau Mutua on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia out of the way, Makau Mutua is mainly known as a political columnist. He writes on a lot of political Kenyan matters and it goes without staying that, in the process, he has ruffled feathers. Too many feathers at that.
Politics divides people. it angers people. And it makes people unable to control themselves. So when you’re a high-profile political writer and your job basically involves taking a clear stand and making it known to the world – it’s certain that not everyone will be smiling.
I discovered by default (social media) that Makau had stopped writing for The Nation newspaper, one of the leading papers in Kenya, and he’d made a debut to The Standard, The Nation’s rival. While many were talking and seething in anger, others were excited, jubilated. He polarises people, Makau.
Here’s what Makau Mutua comfortably shared with me when I asked for an interview.
Name: Makau Mutua.
Occupation: Dean of Law at Buffalo Law School in the US and political columnist for Kenya’s The Standard newspaper.
How long have you been in the US? Do you miss Kenya, or are you basically
assimilated to the US?
I’ve been in the US since 1984, although I spent a year at Fisher High School in Illinois 1974-75.
Kenya was obviously my first love. I remember its sounds, sights, and smells fondly. It’s an intoxicating country. I go back two or three times a year, sometimes more. But I’ve also lived in Tanzania (1981-84) where I was exiled. Love Tanzania too. Great people. Seductive culture. I think of myself as a global citizen.
Would it be possible for us to get through this feature without delving into
No, politics is in my blood stream. I breathe, eat, sleep, drink politics. Everything in life is political, by the way.
(I tried very hard to avoid it nonetheless…I think I might have been successful. )
Being a Dean of Law, is it as hard as one would imagine?
Deaning has its ups and downs. The responsibility is awesome and a privilege. Leading scholars in a common enterprise is priceless. For me it was extra special because I am the first African-born dean of an American law school.
The alumni are truly a joy to work with and benefit from their wise counsel and support. The school belongs to them – I am just a trustee, a steward. The students, are however, the true owners of a law school. We are here because they are here. They’re my first priority.
What are the main similarities between universities in the US and those in Africa?
US universities are like no others in the world – not even in the Western world. They are largely well resourced and highly valued in society. They are the reason America is a great country. That’s why they are a magnet for students from all over the world.
And what are the differences between university students in New York and those in Kenya?
Students in Kenya learn largely by rote, like the British, not through problem solving. That’s not to say they aren’t as smart – they are very brilliant – but the teaching tradition is different.
What’s the most trying aspect of being a member of the faculty?
Grading exams, many professors would agree, is trying!
Do you get nostalgic about your days as a college student?
As a student, one is totally irresponsible – I remember that state of life fondly. I was my own master. No longer. Lol! Read more The Unwritten With: MAKAU MUTUA – ON HIS YOUTH, LAW AND BEING ANTI-AUTHORITY