Academic SAILERS: The Ford Foundation and the Efforts to Shape Legal Education in Africa, 1957-1977
American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 52, p. 262, 2012
65 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2011 Last revised: 21 Dec 2014
Date Written: 2012
This study examines a major law-and-development project in Africa undertaken by the New York-based Ford Foundation in the decades following the Second World War. By the 1960s, many countries in Africa freed themselves of colonial rule, and Ford eagerly sought to assist these newly emerging states in the nation-building process. One area towards which Ford contributed considerable resources was legal education. Labeling its program ‘SAILER’ – or the Staffing of African Institutions of Legal Education and Research – Ford engaged in a range of initiatives, including sending American lawyers to teach in several different African countries and bringing Africans to law schools in the United States to study.
The research here evaluates this Ford initiative by relying primarily on three sources of original data: a review of all of Ford’s archival documents on SAILER; interviews with former affiliates of SAILER residing in the United States; and archival research and interviews conducted in Africa during parts of 2010 and 2011. As the findings reveal, the story of this project is more complicated than the conventional wisdom might suggest. To begin, SAILER was not a single, monolithic program; nor was its mission to advance some grand Cold War, American foreign policy objective. Furthermore, the Africans with whom SAILER-officials worked were not all desperately yearning for assistance from the United States; many were sophisticated individuals simply interested in finding ways to enhance the rule of law in their respective countries. SAILER thus was seen as one potential vehicle for achieving this goal. And importantly, the attitudes of, and strategies employed by, those involved with SAILER – both in the United States and in Africa – were not static; they were nuanced and they evolved throughout the course of the project. By 1977 SAILER officially ended, but as this study concludes, the reasons were layered, and they related to contextual factors within Africa as much as to the internal decisions within Ford itself.
Keywords: Africa, Legal Education, Ford Foundation
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