Legal education initiatives in Africa.

Position:Proceedings of the One Hundred Second Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: The Politics of International Law - Discussion

This panel was convened at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, April 12, by its moderator, Penelope Andrews of CUNY School of Law, who introduced the panelists: Bernard Freamon of Seton Hall University School of Law; Patrick Kelly of Widener University School of Law; and Ziyad Motala of Howard University School of Law.


Our three speakers today have been integrally involved in international programs and they have some very thoughtful and interesting perspectives. Before I introduce them, I would like to introduce Professor Adrien Wing from the University of Iowa who put this panel together. She wanted to say a few words before we start.

* Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law.


I would also like to welcome everyone. I am very pleased that we were able to offer two panels this year on Africa this one and another on Sudan. I also want to make you all aware that we have an initiative through the Society and through the Africa interest group. We will soon be having an historic first conference between the ASIL and the Egyptian Society for International Law. It will take place on June 18th and 19th in Cairo and will bring together lawyers, law professors and students from both countries. We hope to involve people from Africa and the Middle East next year. Thank you.

[(dagger)] Bessie Dutton Murray Professor, University of Iowa College of Law.


Professor Patrick Kelly teaches at Widener Law School. He directs the Kenya program of Widener Law School and is an international scholar. Next to him is Professor Ziyad Motala who is a fellow South African and who has been running the Howard Law School program in South Africa for several years. On my left, we have Professor Bernard Freamon who teaches at Seton Hall Law School. He runs the Seton Hall programs in Cairo and Zanzibar and is a scholar on law and Islam. Each of them will speak for fifteen minutes and then we will have a conversation with the rest of you.

REMARKS BY PATRICK KELLY ([double dagger])

Legal education partnerships in Africa inevitably combine two interrelated aspects of a deeper form of education: the practicalities and cultural benefits of living and studying in a foreign country and the political tensions and aspirations embedded in that society. In this brief time I want to first discuss the special rewards and practicalities of a summer program in Africa, and then use this occasion to provide a richer, more complex picture of the recent political struggle and ethnic conflict after the December 2007 presidential election in Kenya that I hope is part of the transition to a better democracy.

[(double dagger)] Professor of Law, Widener University School of Law.


    Turning first to educational programs, Africa is an immense, diverse continent full of unique opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. Those who have traveled down this path know that Africa is misnamed as the Dark Continent. It is the Bright Continent--bright with the infectious smiles and great hospitality of the African people. There is much to learn from their culture, friendship, vitality and devotion to family. This immense continent is also home to grinding poverty, harsh conditions, the scars of colonialism, and corrupt, repressive regimes.

    In Africa, legal education is inevitably intertwined with the politics of the country. The law schools educate and develop future leaders and politicians. They are also a major source of intellectual ferment and political reform. Historically, the chancellor of the University of Nairobi has been the president of the country. While this has changed, the government retains considerable control over university administration and its policies. Important aspects of administration such as admissions and promotions may reflect any struggle for power within the country and on occasion its ethnic tensions. The struggle is so intense because there are relatively few resources, and the president has near absolute power. With little dispersion of economic and political power, many of the jobs, access to capital and licenses to operate businesses are distributed and controlled by government.

    Our program in Kenya is now twenty years old and has survived and flourished under several changes in government and several exceptional deans to whom I am eternally grateful. Here are several key lessons that I have learned sometimes the hard way:

    (1) Hire African faculty to teach or co-teach as many courses as possible. Many are great teachers, charismatic figures and bring a wealth of domestic and international experience to the classroom. I can think of many outstanding teachers particularly Githu Muigai, Kivutha Kibwana, Albert Mumma, Patricia Kameri-Mbote, and James Gathii, a Kenyan who is now an academic in the United States. Their vast experience and broad background have immeasurably enriched our program. When I first arrived in Kenya thirty-five years ago as a young man, I found that many at this extraordinary faculty were brighter, more mature, and more sophisticated than I was. I learned from them and continue to do so. But in your choice of faculty for your program, be quite selective. Those in positions of power may not necessarily be the finest of teachers. It is important to be both selective and evenhanded.

    A major issue to consider is that the large difference in wealth and salaries between the United States and Kenya may well affect the administration of the program. In many African countries with an average per capita income of $350 per year, the adjunct salary you pay your colleagues may be a significant sum that will be sought by many. It may engender envy, resentment and anger. You must be sensitive to these concerns while resolute in choosing faculty wisely. Your students to their surprise will similarly be perceived as wealthy. Just the airfare alone to Kenya may be six to seven times the average annual income of an adult.

    (2) The greatest reward of such a program is that the experience will change the lives of all who participate. Many will remember it as the greatest experience of their lives. Yet in the midst of this experience, many will undergo cultural shock and at some point doubt the wisdom of coming. Few have been exposed to this level of grinding poverty. Few are untouched by both the friendship of the people and the relative hopelessness of conditions. An important lesson that I have learned is to prepare them to the extent possible in advance for the conditions they will face. Be candid. Do not avoid discussing crime or other unpleasant topics. The experience is not right for everyone.

    Much of the learning occurs outside the classroom. The more your students meet and interact with students from the host institution, the better the experience will be for all. For us, the friendship and hospitality of Kenyan students and faculty outside the classroom has made the program worthwhile. Encourage students to socialize and visit their friends' homes if they have that opportunity. Over the years we have been able to offer full scholarships to six University of Nairobi students to come to Widener for an LL.M. degree. Each has been an outstanding student who has returned to make an important contribution to Kenyan society.

    (3) From my experience, I strongly suggest that the classroom and organized activities support and maximize the overall cultural and out-of-classroom experience. Together with my Kenyan colleagues, I use the International Environment and Trade class to draw on the unique resources of Kenya. Dr. Patricia Kameri-Mbote, for example, gives a lecture on Wildlife Management issues before we go on our first three-day safari to Samburu National Reserve. Her lecture and the perspective of Kenyan students open the eyes of the Americans to the tension between wildlife preservation and the quite real concerns of nearby residents for their crops and personal safety. Before visiting Maasai Mara, an official from Kenya Wildlife Service explains the causes and cures of the decline of the African elephant including programs to minimize poaching and sustain their population. When we study the Ozone Layer legal regime, we visit the UNEP outside Nairobi and hear a lecture from Dr. Gilly Bankobeza on the Montreal Protocols. We plan four weekend trips as a group to build group solidarity and give everyone a taste of various parts of Kenya.

    (4) Cultural shock is an important and inevitable part of the transition to being comfortable in any new locale. Cultural shock is not really about culture per se, but about unperceived expectations and assumptions. We navigate through our own culture easily by knowing in advance what commands our attention, what to screen out and when planning is required. But living in any new country, we do not know the rules. What requires ten minutes at home may now take an hour. Things are done differently: personal space is different and the concept of time is different. In Africa being on time is not a priority, but personal relationships are. Men hold hands with each other but rarely show affection to their wives or girlfriends in public. Shopping, banking, getting anything done may be frustrating. Lines are long and the internet is slow. Someone is jumping the queue, making you late. Even though someone may be speaking English to you the accent, pronunciation, word choice, and meaning may be different. Together with the time zone difference, high altitude of Nairobi and the lack of street smarts, many students and American faculty alike may become frustrated, lonely and depressed. Loved ones are far away and everything seems uncertain.

    Yet a measure of discomfort is precisely why we travel--to get out of our own comfort zone and open ourselves to the values and perspectives of others. Viewing our own culture and habits from the prism of travel and broader experience, it is easier to...

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