Named in honor of the South African Constitutional Court’s landmark decision abolishing the death penalty, the Makwanyane Institute is an intensive educational program for capital defenders. Our participants, the Makwanyane Fellows, receive specialized training delivered by world-class capital defenders from around the world.
During the two-week residential training, Makwanyane Fellows represent a fictional client. Working in small groups benefitting from continuous feedback, they practice the skills needed to develop a strong defense, including client counseling, mitigation investigations, crafting case narratives, opening and closing statements, cross-examination, and plea-bargaining.
The Fellows further benefit from expert lectures on topics such as mental illness and intellectual disability, wrongful convictions, international law and human rights, impact litigation, and self-care. They leave the Institute under the guidance of a mentor. After they leave, they put their training into action to great impact for their clients and share their newly acquired knowledge by training fellow lawyers in their home jurisdictions.
Since its inception in 2017, the Institute has been designed to provide sustainable, high-quality legal training for death penalty lawyers in Africa. The Center is now working with its Makwanyane Defender Network to develop African leadership of the Institute. The network continues to grow through the “step-down trainings” organized by our Defenders. Our core group of Makwanyane Defenders now includes over 45 Makwanyane Fellows practicing in 12 African countries, with over 30 Makwanyane Trainers and mental health experts supporting them.
Makwanyane Institute 2018, Cornell University, Ithaca (New York), United States
In 2019, the Institute expanded to civil law countries in Africa, where lawyers are often excluded from regional training initiatives due to language barriers and differences between legal systems. Offered in French, the civil law version of the Makwanyane Institute offers a groundbreaking opportunity for francophone lawyers to hone their skills, share successful strategies with colleagues from across civil law Africa, and join the transnational advocacy movement with their English-speaking counterparts.
Makwanyane Institute 2019, Bertha Retreat, Boschendal, South Africa
Makwanyane Defenders have revolutionized their legal practice. In the words of Anne Munyua, a 2018 Fellow, “I’m going back home a totally changed advocate. This is a life-altering experience.”
Defenders have used their training to achieve plea bargains, challenge the fitness of mentally ill clients to stand trial, and coordinate national strategies for the abolition of capital punishment. They have further expanded the reach of the Makwanyane Institute by sharing the lessons they have learned through in-country and “know your rights” trainings.
“I’m going back home a totally changed advocate. This is a life-altering experience.”
- In Kenya, Fellow Gatambia Ndungu filed an amicus brief in the case of Francis Karioko Muruatetu v. Republic of Kenya, after which the Kenyan Supreme Court struck down the mandatory death penalty in Kenya.
- In Malawi, Fellow Chimwemwe Chitope-Mwale used his training in the field of mental health to identify a mentally disabled client who could not understand his trial proceedings and prevented the trial from continuing without a mental health evaluation.
- In Uganda, Fellow Suzan Silvia Wakabala convinced a prosecutor to waive the death penalty for 61 prisoners.
- In Zimbabwe, Fellow Innocent Maja laid the foundation for the country’s first death penalty clinic for law students.
- In Nigeria, Fellows are using story-telling skills in opening statements to shape the narrative of their clients’ trials. It is the first time that courts have heard opening statements from the defense.
- Ugandan Fellow Doreen Kyazze set up a law school clinic in Uganda Christian University to represent clients on death row. Ugandan Fellows George Musisi, Hilda Murhon and Fredrick Mbaziira joined Doreen in sharing their Institute knowledge at a three-day training for faculty and students in the new clinic.
- In Kenya, Fellows Gatambia Ndungu, Anne Munyua, and Benard Maranga held a “know your rights” training for prisoners at Kitale Main Prison, North Rift Region. They are now supporting efforts to reduce the sentences of over 900 Kenyan prisoners.
- In Nigeria, 2017 Fellow and 2018 Trainer Fellow Angela Uwandu has organized three step-down trainings for lawyers. 2019 Fellow Funke Adeoye trained 65 law students in the University Of Abuja Law Clinic on best practices in death penalty representation.
- Fellows from Cameroon, Nigeria, Malawi, and Tanzania have helped train lawyers from their respective countries following the Makwanyane Institute model.
How to apply
Check back here for application instructions for future Makwanyane Institutes.
Learn more about the profiles, achievements and impact of Makwanyane Institute here:
Media & Publications
Susan Kelly, African lawyers gain expertise at death penalty institute, Cornell Chronicle, Jun. 29, 2018.
Amina Kilpatrick, Cornell’s Death Penalty Worldwide Institute Training ‘A Network of African Lawyers’ to Fight Against Capital Punishment, Cornell Daily Sun, Jun. 25, 2018.
Sherrie Negrea, Makwanyane Institute Is Launched at Cornell Law School, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Jul. 17, 2017.
Cornell Law School, Makwanyane Institute Is Launched at Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School Spotlight, Jun. 23, 2017.
Barbara Esuoso, Cornell Law School launches death penalty center, Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University, Oct. 27, 2016.
Karen Sloan, Cornell Launches Center to Help Defeat Death Penalty Worldwide, New York Law Journal, Oct. 26, 2016.
Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School Launches Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, Oct. 25, 2016.