The previous article had covered the period between Juba conference and the dawn of independence—January 1, 1956. In this regard, we did say that unlike the Indian elite—which championed the cause of united India despite the odds staked against such unity—the Arab-Islamic elite failed miserably to play a role comparable with that of India. There was no Mahatma Ghandi, Nehru, or the Congress Party among our politicians or political parties. Al-Azhari and his National Unionist Party (NUP) were intent on replacing the British in the South and elsewhere in the non-Arab Sudan. In fact, the Arab-Islamic elite mission, whether in power or outside it, was not political but messianic in character. It did or does not see until today the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, languages and religions in the Sudan as positive phenomena, but in the words of the Islamic ideologue, Dr. al-Turabi, as a “catastrophe” that must be changed, even if it meant elimination of the non Arab races, as it happened in the South and is happening now in Darfur.
Due to this lack of vision, the promise on whose strength southern members of parliament voted for independence that their “demand for federation would be taken into consideration” was immediately discarded, and al-Azhari threatened every southern member of parliament who insisted on the north to make good on its promise of federation would be dealt with the “full force of steel”. To suppress the voices of southern representatives in parliament insisting on federation, prime minister al-Azhari constituted a ministerial committee to advise him on the South and the issue of federation. The committee sought the help of the best elitist brains in the north, including Bashir Mohammed Said, Dr Mohya el-Din Sabir, Hassan Ahmed Osman al-Kid, Ibrahim Bedri, Hassan Mahjoub and Dr. Ahmed al-Sayed Hamad.
The views and opinions of the members of this committee varied. The majority in the committee denied the existence of any entity called the South, but disparate, wrangling, backward tribes and that the call of the southern members of parliament for the federal system in the Sudan was an idea the British colonialists had planted in the minds of the few educated southerners. For the same reason, it was further recommended that the idea of federation should be rejected. Of this opinion only two men disagreed: the courageous Hassan Mahjoub argued for the separation of the South, while the visionary Ibrahim Bedri insisted on the need for the acceptance of southern demand for federation, as he previously did in Juba conference and in the constitutional draft committee. Ibrahim Bedri warned his colleagues that such a system of governance if adopted for the whole country, should not only apply to the South, but should necessarily extend to Darfur, the East, Southern Blue Nile, and Nuba Mountains—these are the non-Arab areas that Garang nowadays call the fighting Sudan or the marginalized Sudan.
It is mind boggling to understand today the reason that made this group of elite not to understand the diversity of African societies. In the independent Africa, it is this diverse ethnicities that constituted almost all the fifty-three members of the African Union (AU). As Dr. M. Khalid correctly argues, the tribal components of the South are the same Nilotic and Bantu tribes that are found in Kenya or Uganda. Yet, these tribes are forging or attempting to forge ahead to establish nations based on citizenship. We completely agree with Dr. Khalid, and add that the problem of this Arab-Islamic elite is its mistaken belief that these non-Arab and non-Islamic disparate ethnicities must be molded into one culture and religion, i.e., arabized and islamized.
However, just shortly after the advice of that committee, parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the government of al-Azhari, and Abdalla Khalil became the prime minister. The reasons for the fall of al-Azhari and the coming into power of Abdalla Khalil were not differences on issues of national unity or the economy, but for the ruling Arab-Islamic elite usual in fighting, which has characterized the party rule over the last fifty years. National unity and economic development—the bread and butter issues—were left by wayside. Indeed, the ruling elites of the time thought the issues of dislikes between al-Azhari and the two sectarian spiritual leaders—Abdel-Rhaman al-Mahdi and Ali al-Mirghani—on the one hand, and al-Azhari and the group calling for the unity of the Nile valley, on the other, were more important than reaching a national consensus on the federal system proposed by the South or of correcting the economic development imbalances created by the British colonialist.
Under these circumstances, parliamentarian elections were held in early 1957 and a constitutional committee was established. Once again, Southerners raised the issue of federation. The ruling Arab-Islamic elite response was simple and clear: it emphatically told southerners that if they wished the draft constitution to include a federal system for the country, they were required to table a motion to that effect in parliament and subject such a motion to parliamentary vote! This was the level of Arab-Islamic elite treatment of issues that would normally require national consensus. If issues of destiny that require national consensus were subject to a majority-minority vote in parliament, why did this elite find it necessary to have a consensus and not a majority—which it obviously had in parliament—to declare independence inside parliament? Was it not because the declaration of independence was such an issue that required all the Sudanese to agree upon? If issues of national destiny required majority vote, was there any need to make a promise to the Southerners that their “demand for federation would be given due consideration” when writing the permanent constitution for the Sudan? Did not the demand of Stanislaus Pysama, Both Dhieu and Benjamin Locki for federation equally require a national consensus, and not a majority vote, a decision, if it were to be accepted, could have changed the history of Sudan?
Against this background, the fury and the frustration of southern members of parliament and the public was obvious and so great that southerners who represented northern parties in parliament from southern constituencies resigned their membership in those parties to join the Southern Front formed by all the southern members in parliament. In fact, the intent of the Arab-Islamic elite was to step into the shoes of the British colonialists. It was so obvious that Stanislaus Pysama was made to stand criminal trial on trumped up charges made by the Governor of Bahr-el-Ghazal, himself a northerner, on the false accusation that Stanislaus was agitating for federation and had established the Liberal Party for that purpose.
During that confusion, General Abboud took power on November 17, 1958 in the first coup of the independent Sudan. Abboud’s southern policies were so naïve and extremely oppressive that he decreed that Sunday holiday that southerners enjoyed was abolished and Friday substituted therefor, as a day of rest in the South. Missionary schools that provided some education for southern children—as the South had only two government high schools (Rumbek and Juba)—were nationalized and the missionaries ultimately expelled. Arabic was decreed as the language of instruction instead of English in the southern schools; Koranic schools and mosques were built even in places where there were no population; southern chiefs were forced to take-up Arab-Islamic names. In one instance, it was reported during those days that a Zande chief had to appoint one of his court operatives to learn by heart his new Arab-Islamic name, because he could not himself remember his newly acquired name.
Southern reaction to Abboud’s policies was swift and determined. In 1961, a general strike was organized across the South. School children and their teachers went on school boycotts; southern civil servants followed suit. Khartoum was outraged by the challenge posed by southerners. Students and civil servants were arrested and/or dismissed en mass. Kangaroo courts were set up, and the leader of student strike was arrested and tried by the unjust judge Jalal Ali Lutfi, a judge known in the history of the Sudan for the service of repressive regimes, including the present one. Ironically, the judge (Mr. Lutfi) and his prisoner (Mr. Mathew Obour) both became NIF apologists.
However, the Sunday strike (as it became historically known) fed into the Anyanya Movement. A considerable number of the striking Rumbek and Juba secondary schools crossed the international borders of Sudan into DRC (former Zaire), Uganda, and Kenya. Some sought the completion of their education, while others joined Anynaya Movement that had started to gather steam. Among the striking students who completed their education and joined the Anyanya Movement is the present leader of the SPLM/A, Dr. John Garang. Meanwhile, many southern civil servants went into exile, among them was late William Deng who joined others such as Joseph Oduho and Father Saturnino Lohore, who were busy organizing the Anynaya Movement.
The years between 1955 and early 1960s were relatively peaceful. The Torit mutiny of 1955 seemed to have been contained; despite the legitimacy of southern demand for federation, the ruling had flatly rejected it. Southerners were therefore attempting to give the new masters a chance to put things right. Nonetheless, Abboud’s repressive policies gave southerners no chance for a peaceful civil struggle. Southern soldiers, who escaped the wrath of al-Azhari government, began a low-key guerrilla war activity between 1961 and 1963. During this period, the southern political asylums formed and established the Sudan African National Union (SANU). Under the leadership of SANU, the guerrilla became better organized, and a military force to be reckoned with.
In late 1963, the Anyanya mounted a daring attack on Wau, the second largest town in the South. A group of rag-tag Anyanya guerrilla contingency led by Bernardino Mou, in collaboration with police and prison forces inside Wau, fought their way into the center of the town. However, the attacking force was so ill armed that it stood no chance of taking the town. The well-armed northern army beat them back, and the wounded Bernardino, together with conspiring members of the police and prison forces, were captured. Against all the international conventions that protect the prisoners of war, Bernardino and his colleagues were tried and executed, even before their wounds could heal.
The attack on Wau precipitated a wide spread arrest in Wau and other southern towns. All those arrested were subjected to hellish torture at the hands of the military. Further, Abboud government took a number of measures: missionaries who took care of education were expelled and southern civil servants, including the police and prison wardens, were transferred to the North and replaced by northern civil servants and the police. The reason for such drastic measures against these two groups was their perceived complicity in the Anyanya operations. Southern towns were placed under dusk-to-down curfews, which continued until 1972, the time of Addis Ababa accord.
In the North Abboud practiced a policy of enlighten despotism. Party politicians and trade unions were allowed some limited freedoms. The North saw real economic and social progress. The railway was expanded to extend eastward and westward. Irrigation projects were completed, especially in the al-Gezira area, and education was also expanded significantly. Sudan witnessed expansion in energy supplies. In the South, it was not all repression. To be fair to Abboud, it was during his rule that the railway line entered the South (Babenousa-Wau railway line). New schools and health facilities were built, although some of those schools were geared to Islamic prostylization.
Notwithstanding this relative progress both in the North and the South, Abboud regime was overthrown in a popular uprising in October 1964. The Arab-Islamic elite in the trade unions and in Khartoum University (the only university at the time) agitated for a democratic change. Today, the Arab-Islamic elite claims that his repressive policies in the South were one of the reasons for Abboud’s debacle. Southerners disagree. They see the main reason for the overthrow of Aboud to be the desire of elite for democracy in the North, because the war in the south remained unresolved even after the overthrow of Abboud. In fact, the Arab-Islamic elite never questioned the heavy-handedness of Abboud or his human rights abuses in the South. On the contrary, many Northern elite participated effectively in carrying out the policies of Abboud in the South. The members of this elite were the civil servants, the military and police officers, the doctors, the judges and the teachers. It implemented Abboud’s policy in the South with overwhelming zeal and dedication, because it was what they precisely believed: the arabization and islamization of the South.
A civilian government headed by Sir el-Khatim al-Khalifa took office, with a very limited mandate, i.e., to return the country to liberal democracy and to hold elections. For the first time a southerner was given the portfolio of security in the cabinet. Mr. Clement Mboro became the minister of interior. Mr. Mboro attempted to investigate the Sudanese Army human rights atrocities in the South. His efforts, however, did not find support from the government of which he was a member.
One of his trips to the South turned into tragedy, not in the South, but in Khartoum. Mr. Mboro was returning to Khartoum from the South. Almost all the southerners living in Khartoum at the time went to the airport to receive him. Without any explanation, either from the security or the airport authorities, his arrival was delayed. The crowd became impatient and, as usual with the southerners in cases of this kind, conspiracy theories went among the southern crowd like a wild fire. Some angry members of the crowd began pelting passers-by and cars with bricks and stones. The security forces managed to contain the situation. However, when the news spread to Khartoum, northerners considered what happened at the airport as affront from the abid (meaning slaves in Arabic and the usual name northerners call any non-Arab Sudanese). Northerners began attacking every southerner seen walking the streets of Khartoum. Some who were attacked did not even know what took place at the airport.
The riots against southerners in Khartoum continued for almost a week. As a result southerners in Khartoum were gathered in football stadiums for protection. Their residences throughout Khartoum were vandalized and looted. Because of that treatment majority of the affected southerners demanded from the government to be transported back to the South. As most of the returnees to the South were young, some had no time even to greet their families and relatives before joining the Anyanya Movement. These angry young men rejuvenated the fighting force of Anyanaya. During this period the guerrilla activities intensified.
In Khartoum, the prime minister called for a round table conference to be held in March in Juba, the largest town in the South, to deliberate on the so-called “Southern Problem”. The idea of a conference in the South did not please the traditional sectarian political parties (Umma and NUP). Both parties went to work to sabotage the holding of that conference in Juba The Sudanese Army therefore was given the appropriate signals and went on a rampage of killing and maiming in Juba. As a result, many southerners either escaped the wrath of the northern army to the neighboring countries or were killed. The prime Minister had to call off the conference, and changed the venue from Juba to Khartoum.
The invitees to the round table conference were northern and southern political parties. The northern invited political parties were mainly the Umma, NUP, the Sudan Communist Party and some other small northern splinter groups or parties. Southern Front, SANU-William Deng and SANU-Aggrey represented Southerners. Before the convening of the conference, SANU had split into two factions, a faction led by William Deng that advocated peaceful struggle inside the Sudan, and another one led by Joseph Oduho and Aggrey Jadein, who favored armed struggle, while remaining outside the Sudan. Aggrey and Oduho objected to any conference being held inside the Sudan, while William Deng did not see any objection to that, but took his faction altogether to operate inside the Sudan.
Under these circumstances, the Round Table Conference was convened in April 1965. The parties representing the South called for divergent views ranging between federation as William Deng (SANU-Inside) advocated, complete separation as Aggrey (SANU-Outside) proposed and self-determination as proposed by Southern Front. Delegates attended the conference from the neighboring countries, including a personal envoy of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, before his overthrow. Against all the proposals put forward by southern parties, the north rejected each and every one of them. At the closure of the conference, there was no agreement on anything, except the establishment of the Twelve-Men Committee, consisting of the participating political parties.
Meanwhile, by March 1965, the political parties had become impatient and the prime minister was forced to resign and reconstituted his government, with a promise to hold elections by June the same year. The decision to hold those elections applied only to the north because, in the words of the decision-makers, “of the deteriorating security situation in the three southern provinces”. In June 1965, elections were therefore held in the north in 158 geographical and 15 graduates constituencies. The result was a constituent assembly lacking legitimacy for the obvious absence of the South—60 constituencies.
The Constituent Assembly of the second democracy was characterized by the birth of regional groupings, independent from the traditional sectarian parties such as the Beja Congress, the General Union of the Nuba Mountains (GUN) etc. These regional groups captured parliamentary seats in their areas at the expense of the sectarian parties—Umma and NUP and (Democratic People’s Party) DPP. On the other hand, the result of the election produced no party with absolute majority; the Umma Party, however, became the largest party with 90 seats and the NUP with less than 60 seats. A coalition between the two largest parties in parliament had to be arranged. Consequently, the Sudan Provisional Constitution (Amended) 1964 had to be amended to allow al-Azhari to become the permanent ceremonial president of the Council of State, albeit, a rotational presidency among its constituting five members prior to the amendment. This allowed Mohammed Ahmed Mahjoub to become the prime minister.
The second period of democracy began with inexplicable conflict between al-Azhari and al-Mahjoub. Al-Azhari seemed not ready to accept the ceremonial post of the presidency of the Council of State, and wanted to exercise the executive powers of the prime minister for which he was accountable to the parliament. This led to the unfortunate conflict between al-Mahjoub, the prime minister, and al-Azhari, the ceremonial president, with the provisions of the constitution and all the efforts of mediation failed to resolve. Meanwhile, the young al-Sadig al-Mhadi had not become of age to contest elections. As soon as he (al-Sadig) became of age, a member of parliament from the Umma vacated his seat for al-Sadig to contest and ultimately became a member of parliament. The ambitious al-Sadig was not contented with a parliamentarian seat but wanted the job of al-Mahjoub. Al-Mahjoub did not like what he was hearing from al-Sadig’s camp in the Umma Party, and thought al-Sadig was too young to be a prime minister. This led to a split in the Umma party; one faction led by al-Sadig and the other by Mahjoub and supported by the Imam of al-Ansar, al-Hadi al-Mahdi, the uncle of al-Sadig al-Mhadi.
As far as the South was concerned, al-Majoub’s policies were not different from Abboud’s policies. Indeed, al-Mahjoub had decided that the few southern educated individuals were the problem and their elimination, by whatever means, would result, in his opinion, in a better Sudan (it is worth noting that Sir Khatim al-Khalifa, the October prime minister, had reversed the policy of Abboud and ordered the transfer of southern civil servants from the North back to the South). On July 9, 1965—less than one month from taking office—al-Mahjoub unleashed the Sudanese Army on Juba town. One thousand southern civilians were massacred in a night of mayhem, looting, pillaging and rape. Two days thereafter and precisely on July 11, 1965 and during a wedding party, the Sudan Army murdered 76 government officials in cold blood, including women and children. However, the two massacres did not attract the attention of the Khartoum newspapers, nor did it attract the attention of the non-ruling Arab-Islamic elite. There was a general silence from the government and the elite.
Only one courageous editor and his only southern newspaper in Khartoum broke the silence. Bona Malwal, the editor of the Vigilant newspaper, brought the events of July 9 and 11, 1965 to the attention of the world. Despite the efforts of Mr. Bona Malwal, the killings went on unabated throughout the southern towns, from Aweil, Tonj, Rumbek to Yei and Bor.
Al-Mahjoub’s reaction was total denial that such events ever took place. Bona was charged with inciting hatred against state and his paper was temporarily closed down. He (Bona) was later brought before the Khartoum criminal court, which ultimately acquitted him. Those events were never investigated and therefore no army officer or private, let alone those who issued the orders, was held accountable to the present day.
During the second period of democracy and in the most irresponsible move, the sectarian parties, instigated by the Islamic Charter Front led by Dr. al-Turabi, banned the Sudan Communist Party (SCP) and expelled elected communists from parliament. The Islamic Charter Front was the new name of the Muslim Brothers Movement after the October uprising. Under that name, the Muslims Brothers had graduated, from an essentially a movement that propagated among the students, into the heart of the Sudanese politics. Their strength in parliament was insignificant, as they could not win more than two seats of fifteen-graduate constituencies. One of the two members was Dr. Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi, who had played and is still playing a role in Sudanese politics more than the tiny number of his brothers. Al-Turabi led the call for the dissolution, with the support of the sectarian parties, of the SCP, by amending the constitution outlawing communism and atheism.
In fact, the real reason for the outlawing of the SCP was its spectacular success in the elite constituencies. Out of 15 constituencies assigned to graduates, the communists captured 11 of them, although on the top of the graduate list of successful graduate candidates was al-Turabi. The sectarian forces failed miserably to capture any seat of the elite constituencies, and therefore were waiting for the Muslim Brothers led by al-Turabi—the traditional enemies of the communists—to take the lead and they to follow the Islamic ideologue wherever he led them. That was how liberal democracy in the Sudan failed to tolerate a handful minority of communists.
Whatever followed thereafter, was leading the country to the inevitable abyss. Al-Sadig al-Mahdi became the prime minister in 1966 after splitting the Umma Party and forging an alliance with same party that previously put al-Mahjoub into the office of the prime minister. Al-Sadig did not survive in the premiership for more than ten months. During this period, al-Sadig called for All Parties Conference to consider the recommendations of the Round Table Conference. Finally, an agreement was reached that the Sudan should be governed through regionalism. Southerners agreed, provided the three southern provinces would remain as one region. The north was suggesting the Sudan should be nine regions, based on the then existing nine provinces. This became a contentious point of disagreement between the north and the south, until the ousting of al-Sadig from office by another alliance between al-Mahjoub and al-Azhari.
However, al-Sadig had never given up on the premiership and succeeded to group a number of members of parliament sufficient to threaten al-Mahjoub with another vote of no confidence in the parliament. The new al-Sadig grouping included the regional political groupings (SANU, Beja, GUN etc.), plus his sixty members of the Umma Party faction. Al-Mahjoub-al-Azhari alliance reading of the political parliamentary map unmistakably led them two men to the conclusion of the inevitable victory for al-Sadig al-Mahdi. Despite the provisions of the constitution that made it obligatory for the Constituent Assembly to continue in session from its first sitting and for a period of two years and that it could not be dissolved provisions, and instead of abiding by the principles of liberal democracy and parliamentary rules, al-Azhari and al-Mahjoub decided that the only way to prevent al-Sadig from coming to power was to dissolve the parliament and a new election. Thus, in February 1968, the Constituent Assembly was unconstitutionally dissolved and elections were scheduled for April the same year.
Al-Sadig had to realize that contesting the unconstitutionality of the dissolution of the Assembly would take him nowhere and, further, his case was before the same judiciary he had previously excoriated in the case of Joseph Garang et al V Sudan Government. In the face of threats from al-Mahjoub, al-Azhari and his uncle Imam al-Hadi of teaching him a lesson he would never forget, al-Sadig clumsily went on to prepare for the elections. The results of those elections were a resounding victory for his enemies. Al-Sadig was convincingly defeated by the nominee of al-Hadi in what he thought as a secured constituency for him.
At any rate, the major event of the 1968 elections was not the defeat of al-Sadig, but the murder in the South in cold blood of his close ally, William Deng. According to the veteran southern politician Clement Mboro in a recent interview, late William Deng was traveling between Rumbek and Wau, when the Sudan Army before Chweibet ambushed his convoy and slaughtered in cold blood all in the convoy, including William Deng. When the news of this terrible massacre reached Khartoum, the prime minister, al-Mahjoub, blamed it on Anyanya insurgents. As in 1965 massacres of Juba and Wau, there was utter silence from the non-ruling Arab-Islamic elite, including al-Sadig al-Mahdi. Al-Mahjoub hurriedly appointed a judge of the Khartoum High Court, Dafalla al-Radi, a judge known for his impeccable integrity and knowledge of law, to investigate the circumstances that led to the tragic loss of a person in the stature of William Deng.
There were many conspiracy theories about the death of William Deng, but southerners never doubted the role of the Sudanese Army in William’s tragic end. This has been recently confirmed by our gracious uncle, Clement Mboro, and by some of the Arab-Islamic elite writers, e.g., our friend Faisal Mustafa in Massarat (an Arabic periodical edited also by our friend Yassir Arman). As to the investigations of Justice Dafalla, nothing had ever been heard from the Justice. During the third democratic period, all Sudanese waited and hoped al-Sadig al-Mahdi, after becoming the prime minister for the second time, would unearth the investigation results of Justice Dafalla, given the close relationship that had existed between al-Sadig and late William Deng. This silence of al-Sadig on the issue confirmed the fear of some of us that al-Sadig was an accessory, if not before the fact, at least after the fact (this accusation was repeated by Dr. Garang, the leader of SPLM/A, in his letter to al-Sadig al-Mahdi in 1999).
Al-Sadig’s human record leaves a lot to be desired. In his first period as a prime minister in 1967, he ordered the murder of 30 chiefs in Bor District, avenging one captain in the Sudanese army who was killed in a military operation against Anyanya. In his second term as a prime minister, al-Sadig engaged in militia recruitment, particularly in areas of tribal friction, creating, for instance, the notorious Baggara Murahiliin. In addition, he condoned or abetted the massacres of Dinkas IDPs in al-Dhein in 1987, a massacre documented by two Khartoum University professors, Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud and Suleiman Ali Baldo (to be continued).