Global and development-related research

From UiB to the UN

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi from Kenya is the new secretary general of UNCTAD. In 1989, Kituyi received his doctorate in anthropology at UiB.

PROMOTING FAIRER TRADE: Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi from Kenya was educated at UiB in...
PROMOTING FAIRER TRADE: Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi from Kenya was educated at UiB in the 1980s and was recently appointed to secretary general of UNCTAD, who deal with trade, investment and development issues.
Jean-Marc Ferre

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Since 1 September 2013, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi from Kenya has been the secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He is a familiar face to many in Bergen and at the University of Bergen (UiB), where he successfully defended his doctorate in anthropology in 1989, supervised by the now Professor Emeritus Ørnulf Gulbrandsen.

Out of Kenya

Professor Leif Manger at UiB’s Department of Social Anthropology was the one who brought Dr. Kituyi to Bergen. Manger remembers the ambitious Kenyan fondly. The two first met when Manger was a consultant for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) on a water-use study in Kenya.

“We hired a local consultancy and he worked there as a researcher, and ended up being my assistant in the water use study,” Manger says. “He was very promising and had a good head on his shoulders. So when I returned to Norway, I suggested that he study in Bergen.”

His first taste of student life was a diploma programme on ‘Comparative Production Systems’ at the anthropology department, a programme tailored for people with direct development experience.

“Kituyi did well, and he continued into an M.Phil in anthropology, thus changing from his basic background in political science”,  Manger says. “And, having entered the field of anthropology he continued into PhD studies here in Bergen.”

From Bergen to politics

It was also in Bergen that the young Kenyan met his future wife, Ling Merete Kituyi, which was another reason for him to stay in Bergen.

“His dissertation led to a book about the Masai people of Kenya and how this nomadic people has been marginalised,” says Manger. “Then he moved back to Nairobi and got engaged in politics.”

His political career in Kenya peaked when he became Minister for Trade and Industry from 2002 to 2007.

“And now he has suddenly emerged as the head of UNCTAD,” Manger smiles before pointing out that from a Bergen and UiB point of view this is great news. “He has always maintained his relations to Norway and Bergen.”

Ambitious young man

Manger is however not surprised to see his friend and protégée rise to the dizzy heights of international politics, pointing out that already as a young man the Kenyan was more ambitious than most and always was engaged in improving the society around him.

“Although the job at UNCTAD may seem far removed from his studies in anthropology, I do believe that the basic anthropological insights, such as holistic and comparative  thinking, is still very much a part of him. His rich work on the Masai and understanding of marginalised people can serve as a background for thinking also on more overall issues such as the situation of ethnic violence in Kenyan politics and the growing inequality in his country,” Manger believes.

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi succeeds Supachai Panitchpakdi from Thailand, who headed UNCTAD from September 2005 until August 2013.