Abdel Salam Hassan Abdel Salam, who died in London this weekend, was a guiding light of Sudan’s human rights movement. He was one of a remarkable generation of Sudanese intellectuals, who grew up and gained a first-rate education in provincial towns (in his case, Wadi Halfa in Sudan’s far north), and who possessed a vivid curiosity about the complexities and paradoxes of their country. His first job was in the customs office, and one of the many oddities of Sudanese life which he explained was the convergence between poetry and customs officials – both vocations drew disproportionately from the Halfawiin. Abdel Salam remained a poet, but studied law. Abdel Salam was a devout secularist. Among his role models was Farag Foda, and Abdel Salam brought the same quality of straight-thinking intellectual courage to his life and work. He was an unflinching advocate for human rights with a keen sense of the social and political context for making those rights real. He studied Islam deeply and mocked both the excesses of Islamist zealots, and those who were intimidated by them. Analyzing Sudanese jihadism for a chapter we co-wrote on the topic, he turned to the infamous el Obeid fatwa of 1992 […]
Sherif Idriss Izhaq, the political officer of the SLA in Ain Siro, has been murdered. The motive of his killing, shortly after the first visit to Ain Siro by members of the Mbeki Panel last month, is not yet clear, but SLA officials in Ain Siro are examining the possibility that there could be a link to his support for a renewed peace process in Darfur. He was stabbed to death in his home. Sherif was a friend. He was a skinny, wiry little man, somewhere in his mid-30s, who hid a great heart behind a rather dour countenance that lit up like a 100-watt bulb whenever he grinned. Like Ali Haroun, already mentioned on this blog, Sherif had promised himself that he would devote seven full years to the SLA before looking for a wife, and was still single. Arrested and imprisoned in Khartoum’s Kobe jail at the start of the insurgency in 2003, he suffered torture by electricity for a year, on his head, feet, genitals and body, and was still in poor health at the time of his death, with digestive problems, kidney damage and internal bleeding that left him weak and often in pain. The medical […]
Former president Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri died this week, forty years after his historic “May Revolution” in which, as a young army colonel in the model of Gamal Abdel Nasser, he seized power and promised “everything must change.” For sixteen dramatic years he led Sudan on an extraordinary political dance which reached every corner of the political spectrum, from close alignment with the Communists, to aggressive secular developmentalism, peace with the south, embrace of the conservative sectarian parties he had deposed, an eccentric version of radical Islamism, and—in his final days in power—the hints of yet another twist. In his time in power, first espousing Nasserite revolution, Nimeiri savagely crushed the Ansar and Muslim Brothers, then turned on his former Communist allies, and survived repeated coup attempts and invasions. He switched sides in the Cold War, and tore up his greatest achievement—peace in the south and what appeared to be a durable solution to the challenge of national identity—with a return to war. In his early vigour and idealism, Nimeiri was a breath of fresh air, a stimulus to the confidence of ordinary Sudanese that they could build their nation anew. The disillusion that came later was all the more bitter. […]
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the most irrepressible Pan Africanist of his generation, died in Nairobi on 25 May 2009. His friends and colleagues are stunned at the loss of a man who was so full of life and humour, such a determined Afro-optimist, and such a devoted father to his children, Aisha and Aida. Africa is impoverished by his untimely death. Tributes to Tajudeen are being posted on the Pambazuka and Justice Africa websites.
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 […]
An obituary by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal. One of the most disturbing images to have come out of Sudan in the wake of JEM’s attempt to overthrow the government has been that of the tortured body of a lawyer in his forties, Jamali Hassan Jalal al Din, apparently beaten to death by government forces after being captured some 50 kilometers south of Khartoum last weekend. Almost as shocking as the image itself is the fact that the government saw no impediment to allowing the transmission, on television and in the print media, of evidence of what looks suspiciously like an extra-judicial execution. The official version of Jamali’s death is that he was killed in clashes with government troops on 12 May, together with 45 other rebels. Yet his body shows no sign of bullet or shrapnel wounds and there is no blood—or sand—on what can be seen of his clothes. His face, however, is grotesquely battered and swollen. A second photograph published in a Khartoum newspaper shows a group of young rebels, apparently captured with Jamali. None of them are wounded, or show any signs of having been in a battle. The information JEM has been able to […]
Last week, Dr Majzoub al Khalifa Ahmed, advisor to the President of Sudan, was killed in a car accident on the road to his hometown, Shendi, on the Nile north of Khartoum. His brother also died. I express my condolences to his family, who are mourning the death of the two men. Majzoub was in charge of implementing the Darfur Peace Agreement on behalf of the ruling National Congress Party, and was earlier the government’s chief negotiator at the Abuja peace talks that led to the DPA. In both capacities I knew him. In its condolence message, the African Union described Majzoub as a "formidable" negotiator. That is a tactful way of describing his immense capacity for frustrating any forward movement on the talks and then implementing the deal on his own terms. Majzoub was relentless. His command of detail was extraordinary. He kept a file on every individual in the Chida Hotel, where the talks were held, and no piece of gossip escaped his ears. He knew every dot and comma in the text and exploited every tiny loophole. I coined the term "retail politics" to describe how Majzoub operated. He tried to calculate the price of every individual […]