By Bona Malwal
DR. AMIN MEKKI MEDANI; LAWYER; POLITICAL ACTIVIST; DIPLOMAT; AND A FRIEND:
The death occurred in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital on 1St September 2018 of Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, after a long illness. Amin is survived by a delightful wife, Niemat Moniem and by five children, three sons: Samah, Mekki and Waleed and two daughters Sarah and Motaz.
I first met Amin Mekki Medani on a social occasion that turned into a life time friendship of nearly sixty years, combined with political associationship. As practicing lawyers, both Amin Mekki Medani and his law company partner, Tigani Omar el Karib, had from time to time offered me generous legal advice on some of the many legal and political problems that I had encountered with the powers that were in Sudan, when South Sudan was part of the Sudan as one country, before South Sudan became independent from Sudan, on 9th, July 2011. This separation into two Sudans, finally came as a result of two long and bloody civil wars of seventeen years and twenty-one years respectively.
I first met Amin Mekki Medani in October 1964, during those heady political days of the overthrow of General Ibrahim Abboud military dictatorship in Sudan. As a professional lawyer, Amin Mekki Medani was part of the professional trade unions movement of Northern Sudan that wanted to listen to what the South Sudanese political elite’s point of view was on the way forward, over what had become known as the political crisis for Sudan. Most Northern Sudanese political elite, even the professionals amongst them, used to call what was happening in South Sudan, “the Southern Sudan problem”, instead of what it really was-the Sudan problem. It was a classic Northern Sudanese way of denying that they had a problem in South Sudan. One does not find a solution to a problem, unless one first admits that one has a problem. The political South Sudan wanted the political elite of Northern Sudan to understand that without a proper appreciation of the political demand of South Sudan and ascribing a correct solution to that understanding, there was no way of that country called Sudan remaining together as one country in the long term. Amin Mekki Medani, perhaps, due to long discussions between both of us, was definitely one of the few elites of Northern Sudan, who clearly understood where South Sudan was coming from. He was one of a few, a handful of them, really, of Northern Sudanese, who understood where South Sudan was coming from, politically speaking. Amin Mekki Medani and this rather small group of Northern Sudanese political elite, tried to go their way out, to understand what the South wanted. But they had not enough political power to change attitudes in the North, towards meeting South Sudan, at least a quarter of their way, let alone half way.
As a professional Northern Sudanese, a practicing lawyer, Amin Mekki Medani never accepted any military dictatorship that came to power in Sudan through military coup, because, like myself, a journalist, military dictatorships distort legal and journalism practices. Both Amin Mekki Medani and myself, became victims to at least two of the three military interventions in Sudanese politics, if not victims of all the three successful military coups of Sudan: Abboud, Nimeiri and now, Al Bashir. Each one of us, in our own different traps.
I first fell for General Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri’s regime, the second military dictatorship in Sudan of May 1969, because General Numeiri’s regime negotiated a peace agreement with South Sudan’s liberation army- The Anya-Nya liberation movement in 1972 and signed a peace agreement with them that granted South Sudan self-rule. This was a new political phenomenon that had not been tried in Sudan before. A new political con really, by General Nimeiri that was not tried in Sudan before.
General Nimeiri negotiated the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement with the South. Those negotiations were led by Abel Alier Wal Kwai, my close personal friend and political associate. Abel Alier represented General Nimeiri’s regime when he successfully negotiated the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement with the leadership of the entire Anya-Anya movement which represented South Sudan. They were all honorable South Sudanese, meeting as representatives of the two separate sides of the negotiations.
When Abel Alier invited me to return back to Sudan from the United States of America and General Nimeiri offered me the portfolio of Culture and Information in his cabinet, a position in itself that was a first for a South Sudanese, I unfortunately accepted it. What could be better than serving at the time of the implementation of peace in one’s country, as head of your own profession?
There is no room in this obituary for a dear friend like Amin Mekki Medani, to go any further into what befell me in the Nimeiri’s regime. Suffice, only to mention here, that my friend Amin Mekki Medani, was one of the few who continuously warned me through out a period of nearly ten years I was in the Nimeiri regime, that I was in a trap that I had not realized.
I kept my personal counsel, while I was a Minister in the Nimeiri regime, because of the type of strong friendship and social affinity that I kept with friends like Amin Mekki Medani. Long social evenings were spent informing myself from conversations with friends like Amin Mekki about the ills that the regime that I was the spokesman, was inflicting on the social fabric of the Sudanese society.
How then, did my friend Amin Mekki Medani make my type of mistake, when he got into the regime that overthrow General Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri, the so called second popular political uprising in Sudan, in April 1985? I had been out of Sudan at this point, returning in July 1986, only to find that my friend Amin Mekki Medani was the Minister of Public Works in that military interim government of General Abdel Rahman Swar el Dahab.
I do not know the story of the regime change of April 1985. But told to me by my friend Amin Mekki, the military council of fifteen serving army generals, led by General Abdel Rahman Swar el Dahab, Nimeiri’s own Minister of Defense, was intended to keep the military in check during the interim period leading up to the 1985 parliamentary elections. The fifteen generals’ military committee became the head of state in the place of General Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri.
I need not say more on this matter in this piece, because I only returned to the country to start up my next newspaper, The Sudan Times, to find my friend Amin Mekki Medani as Minister of Public Works, in a cabinet of civilians that was enjoying a second tier of power, while the real power remained in the hands of the fifteen generals, all of whom were subordinates of General Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri, whom they had now supposedly replaced in the name of the people! This was a typical Sudanese contradiction in political terms.
Having returned from abroad and now publishing The Sudan Times in Khartoum, our long political evenings, together with Amin Mekki Medani and other friends and political associates resumed. It was, perhaps, the unsatisfactory manner in which the regime that overthrew the Nimeiri regime ran the country after the 1986 election, that may have produced the more audacious manner in which the Islamic fundamentalist political system that now runs the country seemed to have taken hold over the political power in the country. The new Islamic fundamentalist military regime of General Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir finally pushed my friend Amin Mekki Medani into fuller political involvement as an opposition member.
As is the practice in the politics of Sudan, the interim period in which Amin Mekki Medani was one of the prominent leaders of government handed power over to an elected government of prime minster Al Sadig Al Mahdi after one year. That last parliament barely lasted three years. Definitely not for its full four-year term, just like all the previously democratically elected parliaments of Sudan.
The political instability of Sudan is characterized by the fact that no civilian political system that ever replaced a military regime in Sudan, has ever lasted more than mere one term. Sudan never had repeat of a parliamentary election since independence, before the usual military regime intervened. The Sudanese political system is known, therefore, as more military dictatorship than civilian democratic political system. This experience is symbolized by two sayings that are worthy of quotation in this piece:
At the end of the 1986 interim period, when the interim government in which my friend Amin Mekki Medani had been a cabinet member were handing over power to the newly elected civilian government, I was watching the colorful handing over of power ceremony inside the parliament on television. I was at the home of Lt. General Fabian Agamlong Guem, who himself was one of the members of General Swar el Dahab’s military council and was not, therefore, at his home with me. He was part of that ceremony inside the parliament building. With me watching the colorful ceremony on television was General Fabian’s young family. The general’s 16-year-old daughter, who was watching with me, asked me about what was happening. She obviously saw her own father in the front row of the ceremony. She asked me what was going on. This is a young girl who was born during the Nimeiri military regime’s era. She had not known of anything else politically, other than Nimeiri’s military dictatorship, during her 16 years of life. When I told her that the ruling military council, of whom her own father was a member were handing over political power in the country to a newly elected civilian government and that her father and the army were no longer going to be the rulers of Sudan, my young niece responded to me in total disbelief and incredulity, saying and I quote: “Is that possible?” The incredulity of this young girl was quietly borne out again, a mere three years later, when another military junta, led by another Colonel, Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir seized power in another bloodless successful military coup on 30 June 1989.
Like all military coup leaders, Colonel Al Bashir instantly promoted himself from Colonel to Field Marshal, to become head of the new junta in the country, as well as head of its army. General el Bashir has remained so until the time of this writing, almost 30 years in power, in spite of all the efforts exerted by my friend Amin Mekki Medani and the civilian political elite to topple him from power.
Once again, as part of the intellectual political elite of the country, my friend Amin Mekki Medani found himself in the fore front of the losing battle against the Sudanese military dictatorship until his death, which we all sincerely mourn and for which I write this obituary.
I once again found myself on the same side with General Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir, when he signed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with South Sudan, leaving my friend Amin Mekki Medani, again in opposition to a military regime that we had together opposed. General el Bashir became, like General Nimeiri because he signed the second peace agreement with South Sudan, which ended a 21 year long civil war with South Sudan. Something no civilian Northern Sudanese political leader ever dared do with South Sudan. It always seemed that the Northern Sudanese political elite, unlike its military, never wanted to share the political power with the South, a political phenomenon that finally led to the breakup of the country into two separate independent States. The civilian Northern Sudan political elite always felt that it could not accept sharing political power with the South on equal basis and because the South did not understand this, the Northern political elite always thought that they had an impeccable military to keep the South in check through war.
Fortunately for South Sudan, under General el Bashir, the Sudanese military understood the political ploy by the civil political elite of Northern Sudan. Al Bashir signed the political Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the South at Naivasha, Kenya, in January 2005, letting the South exercise its right of self-determination; a political phenomenon which the Northern Sudanese political elite had always called treason, because they knew that self-determination had the built-in possibility of separation of the South from the North. That was exactly what happened in the end, in 2011.
On 9Th July 2011, General Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir recognized the independence of South Sudan, following an overwhelming result of the referendum on self-determination. South Sudan proclaimed its political and territorial independence on 9Th July 2011, leaving honest political strugglers like my friend Amin Mekki Medani to continue the political struggle in Northern Sudan against military dictatorship, until his death in Khartoum on 1St September 2018.
The current regime in Khartoum is the longest serving military ruler of Sudan. General Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir always makes a joke about relationship between the civilian and the military rule in Sudan. He has always said that it is the civilian elite of Sudan who have always prompted the military to take power, because of the political failure of the political elite to govern the country.
General el Bashir says that when the Sudanese civilian population gets fad up with the failure of the civilian politicians to manage the affairs of the country, every civilian citizen of Sudan teases every Sudanese soldier in uniform they meet on the street to take power; I quote the civilian tease: “What are you waiting for? Why do you not take over the government for us? We are all fad up of all these incapable civilians!” Most civilian political elite in the country may not agree with the above contention. But the contention must explain why every conceivable military dictatorship that has taken power in Sudan has ruled the country for a period much longer than any civilian regime that had run the country as a result of an election. Let us begin with the first civilian government – the self-governing regime of the founding fathers of the Sudanese nation, to whom the British colonial system handed over power at the beginning of the first interim civilian national administration of 1954. Ismail el Azhari, the founding prime minister of Sudan, took advantage of the near unanimity of the Sudanese nationalism, when he took over the political power from the British. Both political greed for power and material corruption had not yet overcome the Northern Sudanese political elite. But the Sudanization of the entire public service from Britain ignored South Sudan, which had only three or four South Sudanese civil administrators, who were at the very least, half qualified to contend for any of the colonial posts on offer. These four South Sudanese administrators were: Clement Mboro; Jervase Yak Ubanyo; Barnaba Toroyo and Lewis Bay. All the nearly one thousand colonial posts that were being Sudanized from the British, all went to Northern Sudanese. A fairer minded system could have given only four civil administration posts to the only four South Sudanese who were known to be qualified for these posts.
The South was ignored and accused of being unqualified to hold any of the colonial jobs on offer. But could only four unqualified and inefficient South Sudanese have damaged the entire political system? Could only four have deterred the whole country from moving forward, when nearly one thousand efficient Northern Sudanese had taken over those many colonial posts from the British? Could all these qualified and efficient Northern Sudanese not have prevented any damage being done to the public service by only four South Sudanese? There was not a slightest sense of accommodation, let alone fairness.
I am laboring this point in this obituary about my friend Amin Mekki Medani, because it was always the subject matter of our many contentious political conversations during Amin’s life. If the North had taken the four only half qualified South Sudanese and the South continued to complain, the North was entitled to ask –who else, amongst South Sudanese, who was qualified and was left out? Naturally, that question was never asked in the ensuing bitter debate, because the North made that grievous mistake of not including even a single South Sudanese. And yet, the North wanted the South not to think that the North had swapped coloninal masters over South Sudan with the British. The question of fairness, or lack of it, during the Sudanization, was always particularly sensitive to my friend Amin Mekki Medani, because his own father, Mekki Medani, was himself one of the many Northern Sudanese who benefited from the upgrade that Northern Sudanese administrators benefited from, as a result of the decolonization of Sudan. Of course, from the stories one has had the opportunity of hearing, Mekki Medani, my friend Amin’s father, is amongst the better quoted efficient Northern Sudanese administrators of the Sudanization era in Sudan.
I have never heard that my friend Amin Mekki’s father had ever served in South Sudan after Sudanization. I have personally often quoted other good Northern Sudanese administrators who had served in South Sudan at the end of the British colonialism over Sudan; Northern Sudanese administrators like Abdel Raziq Abdel Aziz, the first Sudanese district commissioner of Aweil district of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, who successfully resisted the entry of the Northern Sudanese national army into his district, after the August 1955 outbreak of disturbances in Torit, in Eastern Equatoria, because there were no disturbances in his district. Only after Abdel Raziq Abdel Aziz was transferred back to Northern Sudan from Aweil, did Northern Sudanese soldiers occupy Aweil District. How many districts of South Sudan might have remained free of the 1955 uprising in South Sudan and which may have remained peaceful, if those districts had administrators like Abdel Raziq Abdel Aziz? This is hard to say.
I dwell on these matters, even in an obituary for a food friend like Amin Mekki Medani, even though such events are no longer of any consequence in the future relationships between Northern Sudan with South Sudan, which has now become an independent country in its own right. I do this here, however, because I know that there are issues that occupied the mind of my friend Amin Mekki Medani during much of his political life and which had formed part of our collective conversations, as we had always pondered the way forward for Sudan, during all those many years, before our country broke up into two –North and South.
It is also not an immaterial thought, to wonder aloud now here, to what extent had the long pondering over the future of Sudan, North and South adversely affected the health of a highly political intellectual like Dr. Amin Mekki Medani! To what extent had his physical health suffered, as a result of these deep thoughts, of what his own country might have been, had some of the political issues I am writing about here, in this obituary for my friend Amin Mekki Medani not occurred? Or were treated differently? Might he not have had a good physical health and might he not still be with all of us today?
Throughout our relationship –friendship with Amin Mekki Medani, politics of Sudan had been the most dominant issue. Making the friendship more political, even to most of the people who knew the social side, the other side of our social relationship; like our own children, for example, who became part of our relationship. Our children grew up together in Khartoum, attended the same educational institutions and grew up together in their own right as friends, separate from our own friendship, Amin Mekki Medani and myself.
As Sudanese politics grew much more intricate, especially between the South and the North, I came to realize that the future of this giant of an African country called Sudan, was by and large occupying more and more, the thoughts of Amin Mekki Medani. He became one of a very few members of the Northern Sudanese political elite, who came to know exactly that there was no way South Sudan was ever going to accept to remain a political ownership of Northern Sudan, if Northern Sudan was bent on not accepting equality with the South at all levels.
In all fairness, Amin Mekki Medani was not alone in this thought and concern. There were quite a few other Northern Sudanese. But Amin Mekki Medani was the most concerned Northern Sudanese I know! Amin Mekki Medani was always trying to do something about this problem. As we frequently debated these things amongst ourselves, it had always come through to me, that Amin Mekki Medani had come to understand that without a real change of attitude by the North, towards the South, the country that he knew was his own, called Sudan, which included South Sudan, could only survive, if there was a huge change of attitude from the Northern Sudanese political elite.
Naturally, human beings live, but they also all know, that in the end, they must die. Human life, even for an individual who was well to do like Amin Mekki Medani, had to die, not because of material need to restore his life back to good health. As I visited Amin Mekki Medani, on his sick bed, both at his house in Khartoum, and in the hospital in London, the United Kingdom, all this after South Sudan had already achieved its independence, my friend Amin Mekki Medani gave me the impression that he still had hopes, in spite of his severe illness, that all of us, the so-called Sudanese political elite, in both the South and the North, might still find some way, some miracle that would restore Sudan, Northern Sudan and South Sudan to oneness again. Amin Mekki Medani was a man of good thought. But how to even get to discuss such a good thought, is beyond me, at the time of this writing! One of the mistakes that I personally made, during my first visit to Amin in the hospital in London, was bringing him a copy of my last book that I had written after Sudan had already broken up into two separate countries. The title of the book is: “Sudan and South Sudan: From One To Two”; Amin Mekki Medani opened his eyes wide and almost immediately asked me “Is this a new book?”. He immediately behaved as though I had given him a pain killer. I know that my friend Amin wanted to know, from after the South had seceded from the North, whether there was a fresh hope for a return to a united Sudan, South and North and he might have thought that such a hope was contained in the new book. He had been looking severely weak and I do not know if he ever read the book at all.
Unfortunately, I had no such hopes to offer to my friend Amin Mekki Medani, as well as to my other good Northern Sudanese friends, about any hope of a return to a United Sudan. I know that many of my Northern Sudanese friends, continue to harbor the same hope.
The urgency to work to restore unity between the two parts of Sudan seemed to have struct most honest Northern Sudanese political elite, like my friend Amin Mekki Medani. It is clear and apparent, that most liberal Northern Sudanese, who included Amin Mekki Medani, thought that the surge of Islamic fundamentalism in the politics of Sudan, drove the South Sudan to a separatist path, to which it could not return. From my personal point of view, such a contention remains a very wrong contention. As long as Northern Sudan had no answer to the political inequality of the South with the North, the South was never going to remain in a Sudan in which a South Sudanese was a perpetual second class citizen. Instate of working to avert such an eventually, individual Northern Sudanese political thinkers, even including my friend Amin Mekki Medani, were hoping only for some miracle to happen.
Amin Mekki Medani and many of his liberal Northern Sudanese political elite – our own contemporaries, colleagues and friends, were already several steps ahead of the secular none Islamic Northern Sudanese, speaking politically. Could the secularist political elites of Northern Sudan have reversed the Islamist trend in the country, if they were joined by the elite secular South Sudan? The answer can only be –may be, if that was what the political elite of South wanted to do. The answer to this last question was clearly no. Since the events of the self-government of the emerging Northern elite, emerging with power handed only to them by colonialism and the North headed the new Sudanese state, without realizing that they were taking over a political land mine from colonialism, without the full participation by the South, the separation of South Sudan started right there, with the beginning of Sudanization. The educated South Sudan and not just the political elite, had come to the conclusion, from the political events since Sudanization in 1954, that to remain one country with Northern Sudan, was to accept to be second class citizen forever. Hence, the national liberation movement of the South, which the Northern Sudanese political elite called all sorts of different names, from imperialist inspired, to mutiny, to rebellion had been born in earnest, in August 1955.
Once the South had made up its mind, that it had no future as a united country with Northern Sudan, some solution had to be found. Even a solution that might have kept some semblance of unity with the north may have worked. This was what the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement was all about. But the North abrogated Addis Ababa in 1983, to re-impose total domination of the South. Even liberal Northern Sudanese political thinkers, like my friend Amin Mekki Medani, were looking for solutions that were only mere accommodation of the South, when the South was already thinking of either an unqualified equality or a break up. In the end, the North only facilitated by their own attitude, for the South to break away. The political attitude of Northern Sudan guaranteed the breakup of the country.
The most serious radical break with the past within the Northern Sudanese political elite, which had some hope for the unity of the two parts of Sudan, was when Northern Sudanese political elites, like Amin Mekki Medani; Faroug Abu Eissa and others, joined with the South, under the leadership of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by late Colonel John Garang de Mabior and set up a joint political opposition movement, to oppose the Islamist military junta that was now devastating the country. The SPLM had joined hands with the Northern Sudanese opposition movement, under the National Democratic Alliances(NDA), to evolve for the first time in the history of Sudan, a united opposition National Sudanese Alliance.
The National Democratic Alliances (NDA), was set up at Kober Central Prison, in Khartoum, by the prisoner leaders of the political parties of Northern Sudan, whose coalition alliance government in parliament had been overthrown by an Islamic Fundamentalist military coup, on 30 June 1989, led by Colonel Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir. Inspired by the urgent urge to form an opposition alliance, to counter the new regime, even while these Northern Sudanese opposition leaders were under detention, the leaders of the traditional parties of Northern Sudan, Al Sadiq Sediq Abdel Rahman Al Mahdi, the over thrown prime minister and Mohamed Osman Ali el Mirghani, the leader of the second largest political party, nominated while in prison: lawyer Farouq Abu Eissa, who was by then the Secretary General of the Arab Lawyers Union, based in Cairo, Egypt and myself, as Co-Chairmen of the new opposition alliance in exile. I was already living in Oxford, in the United Kingdom.
I was on vacation in Europe, when the Islamic military coup took place in Khartoum. Abu Eissa and myself were joined by eminent individuals, like my friend Amin Mekki Medani, as well as representatives of all the Sudanese opposition political parties.
Never have I ever witnessed a more eminent and more serious-minded Sudanese opposition in my life, like this exiled NDA. Within a few weeks, a strong agenda for a Sudanese government in waiting was put together. Including various draft laws for an interim government. Colonel John Garang de Mabior, the South Sudanese liberation movement leader, immediately decreed his SPLM to join the NDA. The SPLA, the guerilla army of South Sudan, became an active armed wing of the united Sudanese political NDA. Foreign governments around the world, who were all alarmed by the strong surge of the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum, began to look at the opposition NDA as a government in waiting. The pressure grew on the Islamic military regime in Khartoum, and soon, it had begun to release the political detainees from its secret prisons inside the country, known then as ghost houses, where detainees were tortured and lynched.
Colonel Omer Hassan Ahmed el Bashir, the leader of the latest successful military coup in Khartoum, had sent two of his close military associates: Colonel Bakri Hassan Salah and Colonel Martin Machuei Malual Arop to me in Oxford, U.K, to invite me to join their military led government in Khartoum. Both Colonel Salah and Colonel Malual Arop were members of the ruling junta in Khartoum. We had three days of extremely serious discussions with these two leaders of the new military establishment in our country. I related to them, much of what they already knew. I could not make a second mistake in my life, to serve in another government of another military regime in Sudan. The three days we spent in Oxford with the two leaders of the new military junta in my country, were spent on them explaining to me how different they were for the good of the country and what difference they were likely to make to the country.
I, of course, had already made up my mind about never serving my country under a military regime ever again. I had learnt enough lessons during the nearly ten years’ service under Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri’s military dictatorship, from the mid 1970s, to the end of the 1970s. Disappointed as my two quests to Oxford were, I was also sure that they understood where I was coming from. They returned to Khartoum and pursued their political agenda in some of the most unusual and unorthodox manner. But my contact with that regime did not stop.
There had already began numerous contacts, aimed at attaining peace for Sudan. Eventually, with the new peace signed by the South with this persistent Islamic fundamentalist inspired military dictatorship, I was once again lured into accepting to work with them under the new peace agreement –The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), of 2005, because this latest ruling junta in Khartoum finally recognized the right of South Sudan to self-determination. That serious recognition, eventually led to a referendum and to the independence of South Sudan, on 9Th July 2011.
Throughout his long illness, until his death, my friend Amin Mekki Medani and myself had been discussing how different the political ambition of South Sudan –to be a full participant in the political life and responsibility over the affairs of Sudan might have been achieved, without the necessity of breaking up the country. Unfortunately, like most things in real life, it all boiled down to a mere wishful thinking. Our country has now broken up into two. It is now time to think of how best to keep political and social relationship between the two Sudans, South and North, as good as if the two had not broken up. For the time being, this is proving difficult, but it is not impossible: Nothing is politically impossible. This should remain as a political ambition of all, South and North, for now.
When the opposition NDA was set up in the 1990s, with eminent lawyers and political thinkers, like my friend Amin Mekki Medani leading the new Sudanese opposition alliance, everyone who was interested in Sudan had some hope. Unfortunately, there is always a caveat in anything Sudanese. A set of events began to emerge within the NDA, sometime to the extreme absence of clear honest and straight forward understanding of the issues under consideration.
The first thing an opposition party needed, especially an opposition movement in exile, was to present its leadership to the world. After the Islamic Fundamentalist junta in Khartoum had freed the leaders of the political parties from prison and some of them had now made their way into exile abroad, it was only fair that those of us who were honoured with the transitional leadership of the opposition in exile, had to turn over that political leadership to the real leaders of the political parties. I had strongly advocated that view. I was very strongly opposed in this move by others, for reasons not repeatable here now at least.
Sayed Al Sadiq Al Mahdi, the deposed elected prime minister, who had the largest parliamentary membership and had the unquestionable right to lead the opposition in exile, had not left the country. Al Sadiq AL Mahdi had not gone abroad and was still living inside the country. He could not possibly engage in active politics while inside the country, under that harsh military regime and not be seized and imprisoned again.
Sayed Mohamed Osman Ali el Mirghani, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), the second largest party in the overthrown parliamentary democracy, had left the country with the permission of the ruling junta. He had no intention to return to the country and was by now, indeed, an exile leader. He had the right to lead the Sudanese Opposition in exile. Farouq Abu Eissa and myself decided to hand over the leadership of the NDA to Sayed Mohamed Osman Ali el Mirghani, in spite of some very strong objections within the alliance. Never the less, the handing over was done. Unfortunately, the NDA movement had to pay an extremely severe price for our decision to hand over the opposition in exile to Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani.
As the civil war ragged on in South Sudan, the SPLA, the liberation army of South Sudan was gaining some military ground in the battle fields of South Sudan. Some of us, including most Northern Sudan members of the NDA, thought the war in South was a gain for the Sudanese opposition. After all, the SPLA political wing, the SPLM, was now a full pledged member of the Sudanese opposition alliance. The SPLA had captured major towns in South Sudan from the Sudanese army by this time, including Torit, in Eastern Equatoria. Torit is a historical political town, as far as South Sudan is concerned.
It was hoped, by the leadership of the NDA, that everybody in the Sudanese opposition movement would be happy with the gains of the SPLA. We were wrong, including my friend Amin Mekki Medani; Farouq Abu Eissa, Omer Nur el Daiam and Mubarak Al Fadil Al Mahdi, both of the Umma party –not to speak of others, equally important, joined us in this happiness about Torit being in the hand of the SPLA. The exception was our new NDA Chairman, Mohamed Osman el Mirghani.
The opposition NDA was planning to hold its first national conference. We had many opportunities of doing this abroad, including in London, which was now serving almost as the second headquarters of the NDA in exile, to Cairo, Egypt, where the NDA leadership also frequently met.
Colonel John Garang de Mabior, the leader of the SPLA had raised with me the possibility of holding the first conference of the NDA in an SPLA controlled area of South Sudan. The SPLA had already captured the historic Eastern Equatoria town of Torit and was holding it already for several months, close to a year, by the time of the considerations being discussed here. Colonel Garang was already using Torit as his SPLA Headquarters. He had met foreign diplomats in Torit and was already talking of Torit as though it was the SPLA Headquarters. Colonel Garang had raised with me the possibility of an NDA national conference in an SPLA controlled area of South Sudan and had assured me that the SPLA could secure Torit for the first NDA conference, to which foreign media and diplomats could be invited to attend. I was excited by such a huge political prospect. I shared it with other NDA leaders –Faroug Abu Eissa; Amin Mekki Medani; Omer Nur el Daiam, Mubarak Al Mahdi; Tighani El Tayeb and Izeldin Ali Amir, the last two were leaders of the Communist party of Sudan. The group asked me to talk to Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani alone, on my own. With the enthusiasm that I had seen from the other leaders of the NDA, I had no reason to suspect that Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani would have a problem. I was absolutely wrong.
I had decided to raise the matter of an NDA conference in Torit, in South Sudan, in an open meeting of the NDA leadership, in the presence of all the leadership of the NDA. The chairman of the NDA was by ow Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani.
When I raised the issue of an NDA conference in Torit, in South Sudan, with Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani, it never occurred to me that this happy story for the opposition alliance, would strike Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani as if I was asking him to murder a human being on my behalf.
I had the misfortune of raising the matter of an NDA conference in Torit, in South Sudan at a meeting now chaired by Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirghani himself, at his own flat, in central London, in England. Since there was, really, almost an unanimous approval of Torit, from all the other members of the NDA, I decided to raise the matter in a formal meeting of the NDA. Sayed Mohamed Osman el Mirgani’s negative reaction to a suggestion of an NDA meeting in South Sudan also came as a shock to most Northern Sudanese at that meeting.
Very abruptly, the DUP leader shouted at me by my name, saying, I quote: “Bona Malwal, I am already facing problems explaining to my Arab brothers, how you and your rebel SPLA had become members of the same alliance with me, yet, now you are asking me to go to Torit, to hold a meeting of the NDA in South Sudan?” He immediately ended the meeting, there and then. He did not allow the discussion on the matter.
Amin Mekki Medani; Farouq Abu Eissa and myself walked to a nearby English pub for a drink, but none of us raised the matter on which the leader of the NDA had closed down the meeting on us!
I note that it was always of such instances quoted here, when Amin Mekki Medani; a gracious, sincere individual would find it difficult to preach unity of Sudan, South and North, to an individual friend like myself, who had come to know and believe that for more than six years before Sudan become independent from Britain, in 1956, it was not possible to persuade the rank and file Northern Sudanese to accept unity on equal basis between Northern Sudan and South Sudan. By the time of independence of Sudan, on first January 1956, the South had already started a military upraising in Torit, in South Sudan. One might have expected a responsible political leadership to act accordingly and prudently. Instead, the prime minister of the day, Ismail el Azhari, decided to join the Arab League of nations, instead of setting the unity of his young country first. As Sudanese, we all thank God Almighty for the not so short life he had granted my friend Amin Mekki Medani on this earth. But had Amin Mekki Medani lived on, I am confident that he might have also seen what I am seeing these days, in spite of the internally devastating civil war raging in South Sudan, for which I have no explanation. Or, perhaps, it is because of what is going on in South Sudan, that Northern Sudanese, at least some of them, may now be thinking that South Sudan may now be persuaded back into unity with the North. However, I am observing some hopeful signs that both the leadership of the two Sudans, South and North, cannot wish away the many shared interests between the two peoples of Northern Sudan and South Sudan.
That it is Northern Sudan that is currently brokering peace in South Sudan, amongst its contending indeed warring political leaders, is an indication that the two Sudans have the ability, let alone the capacity, to mobilize and to unite the nearly 2,000-mile border that binds them. That it is in their mutual interest to manage the long and lucrative borders between the two, to the benefit of both.
The last point I want to make in this personal obituary about my good friend Amin Mekki Medani, on which he expressed some disappointment with me, was when I informed him that I was planning to step aside from active politics from July 2011, after South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for its independence. I had been involved in the Sudanese politics at a very young age of under 30 years, since the time when I first started advocating the right of South Sudan to self-determination. When the South attained its independence, I thought my work was done. I needed to personally diversify professionally. My friend Amin Mekki Medani did not agree with me. And so, did most Northern Sudanese political contemporaries not. I had informed most of them of my intention, if not all of them. A sample of their opinion on this runs like this: Sayed Al Sadiq Al Mahdi wanted me to use my idea of stepping aside from politics as a mere condition on other political issues that I wanted to be resolved in the country, a type of a threat, but not really to retire from politics. Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, of the Communist Party of Sudan, thought stepping aside from politics was a type of relegation of public responsibility. He described it as political decision amounting to treason in the state of affairs the country was in. Nugud’s view was the strongest against the idea of stepping aside from active politics.
My friend Amin Mekki Medani, thought that there were very few South Sudanese, like myself, with contacts and connection with the political North and that my withdrawal from active politics in South Sudan would weaken contact between the North and the South. He urged me to stay on in politics. I have left active politics anyway, at the time of writing this obituary on my friend Amin Mekki Medani.
To return to a united country, which my friend Amin Mekki Medani had aspired and worked to achieve for so long, is another matter altogether. It may be still too early to proach such matters. I dare not try that at all. There surely will be others who will follow Amin Mekki Medani and myself into the politics of now our two countries, who may achieve what my friend Amin Mekki Medani and myself had not managed to achieve, a solution to the common interest between the South and the North. This has truly eluded our generation, my fried Amin Mekki Medani and myself all our life. It is not for me and others of my generation to proach. All that I sincerely and honestly continue to aspire for, is to maintain to the best of my ability, my friendship and good relations with all my Northern Sudanese brothers and friends. May Almighty God grant the soul of my brother Amin Mekki Medani, eternal rest in peace. Bona Malwal