By Deogratias Mmana, Malawi News Agency
The American Washington University in St. Louis will confer Malawi’s President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika with Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, 30 September 2018.
Doctor of Human Letters is conferred upon an individual in recognition of their impact to the welfare of the global humanity.
Executive Assistant to the President and Director of Communication Dr Bright Molande said Mutharika will be honoured on Sunday.
“This recognition of distinction and excellence joins the long list of honours our Preaisent has received. The international community sees an African Statesman and a global leader in our President. In fact, the President is deeply touched because it is a great personal honour to him,” said Molande in an interview on Friday.
“Mutharika’s profile in the field of law speaks a lot about the impact he has made around the world – the thousands of minds he has trained in law in Africa, Europe, Canada and the US and the legal instruction he has rendered to scores of global institutions and nations.
“And it is not surprising that it is Washington University that is conferring this honour,” added Molande.
Mutharika earned his law degree in London and then moved to the United States, where he earned advanced degrees in law at Yale University.
He joined Washington University in 1972, spending 40 years teaching contract law and international law. He would later become one of the first black law professors for the University.
It was under this university that Mutharika would forge his globally-respected law career and politics and future leadership for Malawi.
A distinguished scholar, he has taught at top institutions such as the Rutgers University(USA), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research Program for Foreign Service Officers from Africa and Asia and the Washington University (USA).
Molande said Mutharika has also taught at the University of Dar es Salaam; Haile Selassie University (now Addis Ababa University).
Mutharika has also lectured at the Council of Foreign Relations of the United States of America; and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in the United Kingdom.
He has served as an Academic Visitor at the London School of Economics(UK), advisor to the American Bar Association‘s Rule of Law Initiative for Africa, the Chairperson of the Institute for Democracy and Policy Studies, and Member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunals of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank.
In 2008, he was awarded the International Jurist Award, becoming the first African to receive this prestigious award.
He is a Charles Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Law Emeritus at Washington University and an expert in International Economic Law, International Law and Comparative Constitutional Law.
“Mutharika is returning to the university as one of its distinguished sons, its Professor Emeritus – and, now, a President,” Molande said.
When Mutharika became Malawi President in May 2014, it came as a pleasant surprise to many of his colleagues and students at the university.
Mutharika had retired from the univeristy three years before, bringing to an end a distinguished career that spanned four decades.
According to a report in the university’s publication St Louis Dispatch of June 2, 2014,
Mutharika was famed to be an unassuming person and a quiet international law expert such that his ascendancy to Malawi presidency stunned the university community.
“His former students and colleagues at Washington University said Mutharika’s transformation from a scholar who generously hosted students at dinners, to quiet international law expert, to prisoner and, now, to president has been nothing but breathtaking — and nail-biting,” said the publication on June, 2 2014.
But even if unaware of his political activities, everyone felt he was made for the task of leading Malawi.
“Friends in St. Louis say he is a serious, thoughtful and measured man who they believe will bring great good to a small, landlocked country struggling to feed its people and sustain trade,” reports the St Louis Dispatch.
One of the few men who had an idea of some of Mutharika’s political activities was David Becker, a close friend and also a professor emeritus of law at the institution.
He said Mutharika began drafting Malawi’s new constitution from Missouri.
Becker would only learn later that his close friend had been quietly working behind the scenes with his brother, Bingu, and others for decades to shape the political future of the country from which he had originally been driven away by the dictatorial regime of the time.
“He was basically part of this peaceful move to change the country,” Becker said adding, “He lived with that secretly for a number of years, and all of us who were close with him and with his wife felt deprived of the opportunity to be of some strength to him.”
Mutharika respected career in law and politics certainly adds to the pedigree of the university.
Established in 1853, Washington University is ranked one of the finest in the world, steeped in teaching and reseach.
“We are a community of individuals with inner fire and quiet confidence, inspired to work together to develop big ideas and tackle challenging problems,” says the university of itself on its website www.wustl.edu
It offers more than 1500 courses and its student community comprises students from all 50 American states and from more than 100 countries around the world.
The honour by Washington University follows two others.
Three weeks ago, the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) of China conferred on Mutharika an Honourary Professorship in recognition of the role he has played in steering Malawi’s collapsed economy to recovery.
UIBE is widely considered to be the leading Chinese University in Economics, Finance, International Business and foreign languages. It ranked number 2 among universities specialized in finance and economics in the two most recent editions of the widely recognized Netbig Chinese university rankings.
In July 2016, the Addis Ababa University of Ethiopia conferred on President Mutharika an Honourary Degree of Doctor of Letters
The Addis Ababa university said it decided to honour Mutharika for his great and outstanding contribution in academia in the world which has inspired and continues to inspire many other scholars.
Mutharika is Regional Universities Forum Champion for Higher Education in Africa, co-convener of the International Commission on Financing Global Education and Charles Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Constitutional Law Emeritus of the Washington University.