Reading this brought the past four decades cascading through my memory. Arriving in Kosti Boys School in 1966 my first introduction to my colleagues on the staff revealed that almost all wore Western dress and taught in English across virtually the whole of the curriculum. However two, known as ‘mullana’, did not: they spoke no English; wore very formal ‘traditional’ dress; and taught Arabic and Islam. At one stage in the school year there was an open day featuring various school societies, and a very small and earnest group (one later to become governor of the Bank of Sudan under the NIF) set up a stall for the Muslim Brotherhood which attracted little attention.
How things were to change. Teaching in the University of Khartoum in the late 1960s I became aware of the struggles over the efforts to ban the Sudan Communist Party; while nearly 20 years later, from my base in Reading but still laced with regular visits to the University of Khartoum, I followed the execution of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The outline of the political story of all this is well enough known, but the exploration here of the struggles over the judiciary has never been written up in this very personal and penetrating manner, and we are all indebted to Abdullahi for it. It is also very revealing of the significance of judicial affairs in Sudan.
There has been a tendency in debates about African politics to write off, if not to ignore, issues pertaining to the judiciary but this book reminds us of just how inappropriate that would be in Sudan’s case where the struggles have been so significant and so intense. The struggle of course is ongoing, and may prove the formal aspect of the division of the country, since the CAP is built around the south’s rejection of sharia law. But even before we get to the referendum in the south of 2011 which will decide the issue, there are more matters to be attended to such as the press laws and other liberties which will be central to the conduct of the elections now scheduled for 2010. And beyond that, for the one or two states, it will be necessary to look to the institutionalisation of a stable legal system or systems if struggles such as those depicted here are not to be a continuing feature.