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African Trip Unraveled

Law professor Bruce Comly French and retired Union County Common Pleas Judge Richard Parrott, JD '60, visited southern and eastern African this past summer for the purpose of French’s making presentations on the rights of African Americans under the U.S. Constitution and Parrott’s making presentations on the state judicial systems. Speaking engagements were planned at the law schools at the University of Nairobi, Malawi, and Lesotho.

But a new plan emerged as the trip continued. The visit to Nairobi occurred on the day after Kenya adopted its new constitution and was celebrating the occasion. All schools were closed, so no presentation was made. However, extensive review of the College of Law Library resulted in an initiative by Judge Parrott to provide for the delivery of up-to-date legal materials not needed by the Union County Law Library.

The visit to the Malawi school was abortive after Judge Parrott’s passport was lost or stolen on the train from Nairobi to Mombasa. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi efficiently issued a new temporary passport, but the limited air service to Lilongwe precluded a rescheduled visit.

The final visit to the National University of Lesotho Law School in Roma saw the initial discussions of a possible student or faculty exchange program with students and faculty at ONU. A proposal is being readied for law faculty consideration. The National University served as the university for Lesotho, Botswana, and Swaziland prior to the three nations’ independence in the 1960s from colonial relationships with the United Kingdom. The law school faculty and the university administration welcomed a number of law school books that the faculty of the law school had collected and sent in the past several years. In 2005, French had visited the National University and made a presentation on the rights of Africa Americans under the U.S. Constitution. The summer visit included a tour of facilities and meetings with faculty, as well as an in-depth study of the law library and an inspection of how the books donated by ONU faculty supplemented the library collection.

When French and Parrott arrived at the Maseru, Lesotho Airport, it was quickly determined that President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa (which completely surrounds Lesotho) was in the capital for a state dinner. The Commandant of the Lesotho National Police inquired of French “are you the Ambassador from Libya?”  French advised the officer that he was from the United States; the officer responded that it did not appear that the American Ambassador (presumed to be French) was not on the state dinner’s invitation list. Zuma was staying at the hotel where French and Parrott stayed.

Finally, before leaving Johannesburg for the United States, the intrepid travelers visited the Apartheid Museum and its recognition of President Nelson Mandela.