Home Education Mukhisa Kituyi: 3 Things You Didn’t Know About The UNCTAD Secretary General

Mukhisa Kituyi: 3 Things You Didn’t Know About The UNCTAD Secretary General


Who is this man Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi? Here are three things that you didn’t know about the highest ranking Kenyan in the UN hierarchy. But first,
Following the recommendation of the Secretary-General, after consultation with Member States, the General Assembly confirmed Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for a further four years, beginning on 1 September 2017 and ending on 31 August 2021. Mr. Kituyi served for an initial four year term as UNCTAD’s seventh Secretary-General.

1. Mukhisa Kituyi is the perfect mix of brain & brawn

The Bukusu are a proud people. The most obvious way this manifests is in their efforts at preserving Kimiima. For all the fanfare of Lukembe (for example) nothing beats how as a people, they celebrate and look up to those they’ve bestowed leadership on.
Unlike, the Maasai, a Bukusu leader must be hoisted shoulder high in a manner that Bonni Khalwale has claimed as his signature triumphant entry to political rallies. No holds barred. There is a Bukusu saying “Omwami omuria” one must respect leaders.
The Bukusu apologetically revere their leaders almost to a fault. If you are aware of this community’s pride in its Mwana Omberi, foremost sons, you’d be mistaken to take Mukhisa Kituyi for simply living to the community’s expectations. His stint as Cabinet Secretary in Kibaki’s government talked to his substance.
His intriguing ascent to the position of Secretary General of UNCTAD, served to only affirm what we already knew about his credentials as an intellectual and thought leader. What most have failed to appreciate though is his 15 years as an elected member of Kenya’s parliament.


1992 to 2007 to be precise. Having defeated the fiery Elijah Mwangale and losing to army man Dr. Eeseli Simiyu respectively. Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi’s political battles is fodder for another day. But from his run-ins with Bungoma’s combo of former Embaksai MP the late David Mwenje and Kiambu governor aspirant Ferdinard Waitatu – the volcanic Wamunyiniyi- to Bungoma Women Rep Reginalda Wanyonyi’stribulations challenging him, wa’kifumbusia’s political life is quite a tale.
Nonetheless, anyone who knows Kenyan politics will attest to what it takes to be elected three times consecutively. Then there is his indelible role in clamor for democracy in Kenya. Facing teargas, police brutality, threat of jail and economic disenfranchisement. For a man, an intellectual, who’s supposed to be holed up in the relative safety of lecture halls not the streets of Nairobi.
So when the man from Kimilili talks tough, be assured the sternness stems from real battles in the streets.

2. Mukhisa Kituyi is an elite but also a serious ambassador of Bukusu Culture

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi rocks traditional African wear- floral print shirt and Karakal? hat- at the ninth WTO Ministerial conference, Bali, on 4th December 2013.

A Makerere graduate. Educated in Norway. Holding academic positions in both Norway and Kenya. Brookings Institution fellow. Reads just some of the highlights of the credentials of Mukhisa Kituyi.
Many would have shun and disengage with their roots with such an impressive CV and life experience, but not wa kifumbusia. The lead hunting dog. The man who’s just earned another four years at the helm of UNCTAD.
Who can dance Kamabeka kamasisumula as well as Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi?
Mukhisa once treated an audience to a ten minute kamabeka dance. Sumptious! He left the dance floor sweating his  balding head shiny with perspiration. Thinking of it, probably only Labour Party Webuye East parliamentary aspirant Dan Simiyu can keep up with Kituyi.
Who can speak fluent Lubukusu like Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi? Despite the fact that he ruled the Amtalla region that boasts of being home to the generic Bukusu who speak swahilinised Bukusu, Dr Kituyi has stuck to his original fluent Bukusu.
Probably only Bifwoli Wakoli can match his oratory skills in the rich Bukusu

3. The son of A pioneer USFW (United Society of Friends Women) Leader is not your typical Quaker

The Religious Society of Quakers, the founders of Pennsylvania state, were considered to be the most radical groups to arise from the English Reformation.
Radical because of their ideas on slavery (abolishment). Religious practice/equal rights for women (women to communion together with men and even lead the church- think of Mukhisa’s mother leadership of the Quakers in Western Kenya). War (Quakers were pacifists who refused to participate in war).
By these yardsticks, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi’s radical streak is easy to explain. His penchant for democracy and the rights of the down trodden understandable. But there is one quality that has come to become almost pathognomic of  Quakerisim. Something that this son of Mulembe at times comes across as not being: humility.

As seen here, and also as was the case during his taking of office as a Member of Kenya’s Cabinet, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi appears to ‘affirm’ rather than take oath by holding his right hand as opposed to the norm whereby  taking oath is by holding up a Bible/Quran as is the norm. As T. Kidd writes, this key doctrine of Quaker faith arises from plain reading of Matthew 5:33-37, in which Jesus said “Swear not at all…But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay. A principle reflected in America’s Constitution’s oath of office for the president takes it into account: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.”
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