In Memoriam: Prof. Abdel Rahman Musa Abakar

Professor Abdel Rahman Musa, leader of the SLM-Free Will group and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, passed away on Sunday. He was a fine Darfurian scholar and intellectual committed to peace for his people.

Abdel Rahman grew up in Kutum, a member of a well-known Tunjur family. He studied at the University of Khartoum and then went for post-graduate studies in France, where he pursued his academic career and became a professor of ancient languages at the University of Lyon. In many ways he was the archetype of the academician: a solitary and intellectual figure, always modest, courteous and meticulous in his personal life as in his scholarship.

Moved by the plight of his people in Darfur, Abdel Rahman took unpaid leave of absence from his university to join the negotiating team of Abdel Wahid al Nur for the peace talks in Abuja. Abdel Wahid felt he needed highly educated Darfurians on his team and appointed him chief negotiator. However, Abdel Rahman’s prominent position was not underpinned by either a strong constituency or by clear direction and backing from Abdel Wahid. Always a proponent of moderation and compromise, and lacking the toughness and interpersonal skill needed to sustain himself as a political power in his own right, Abdel Rahman was criticized by some of his colleagues for his readiness to cut deals with Khartoum.

On the final day of the Abuja talks, Abdel Rahman challenged Abdel Wahid over his refusal to accept the Darfur Peace Agreement, and led a delegation of thirteen SLM delegates into the hall where the signing ceremony was taking place. He was welcomed and embraced by President Olusegun Obasanjo, welcomed by the late Dr. Majzoub al Khalifa, and greeted with applause. Minni Minawi looked on suspiciously as Majzoub held Abdel Rahman’s hand up high and Obasanjo implored others to join the peace train before it left the station. “I came here only to make peace,” said Abdel Rahman, “I worked hard for it. Abdel Wahid al Nur was unable to make the right decision. I and my group have come here to be associated with this peace deal.” Abdel Rahman’s action resulted in the AU’s creation of the “Declaration of Commitment” status and Abdel Rahman’s inclusion in the DPA a month later.

Abdel Rahman was not well prepared for the leadership position thrust upon him—his scholarly temperament was more suited to becoming a senior civil servant. After considering a number of options, he created the SLM-Free Will faction and took the post of Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs. He served diligently and was a capable minister. But he was unable to make the transition from a fine academician to an effective politician. Distrusted by Minawi and manipulated by the NCP, Prof. Abdel Rahman cut a sad and somewhat isolated figure in Khartoum. He was unable to control his followers and members of the SLM-Free Will armed group cooperated with government militia, much to his dismay. The burdens of his position took a toll on Abdel Rahman’s health which almost certainly contributed to his heart attack and medical evacuation to France.

Darfur has lost one of its most educated sons, a fine man of learning, thrust by circumstance into a leadership role that would have daunted the most capable politician. May he rest in peace.

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3 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Prof. Abdel Rahman Musa Abakar

  1. This is unfair,Alex! AbdelRahman was a far-sighted man who could see ahead of his colleagues that one fights to achieve a degree of success (not necessarily 100% success). Let us compare his choice with that of others who refused to sign the peace deal .Look at the chaos they have created for themselves and for Darfur.They can only sit and wait for Save Darfur Coalition
    and theICC . They have lost the initiative which they could have shared with
    the Government and the peace brokers( as was the case in the Southern Sudan). The SPLM is not perfect ;but it had the political maturity to cut a deal .
    AbdelRahman was one of the few Darfuri rebels who understood that. Events have absolved him , vindicated his judgement and have shown the naivety and gullibility of others.He was also free of narrow- minded “tribal” prejudices.
    We have lost a wise Sudanese .

  2. The death of Dr Abdul Rahman Musa, is great loss for Sudan, I met him in Nairobi in 2005, when he was with Abdul Waheed group.
    I sure Dr Abdul Rahman Musa was very genuine in his commitment to peace, I have spoken to him in Khartoum just before taking his ministerial post. But don’t think signing the DPA was great success, as the NCP simple signed agreement and not honouring them and they believe it is all about giving the former rebel leaders houses in the centre of Khartoum and 2 ministerial cars each, as if they took arms because they were looking for ministerial posts and not defending the right of their people. That why Mini has left his house in AL Baldia street, and join his forces in Darfur, and that will make a future peace agreement very difficult as rebel group will ask for guarantees that the agreements they signed will be implemented

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