Sudan's flag raised at independence ceremony on January 1, 1956 by Prime Minister Isma'il Alazhari and in presence of opposition leader Mohamed Ahmed Almahjoub. The country celebrated its 57th anniversary on January 1, 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sudan Vision News Daily
A Contemporary of Ismail Al-Azhari, Uncle Abdel-Mahmoud Abu Saleh, Reflects on Pre-independence National Struggle
Muawad Rashid , Zuleikha Abdul-Raziq and Alsir Mukhtar
A day engraved in the memories of Sudanese nation throughout their glorious history of unwavering patriotism and nationalism: the anniversary of hard-earned independence, marked in this day of every year.
This independence, which was unanimously proclaimed from with the Parliament, on Monday December 9, 1955, is compared to nothing because it determined the will and choice of this great Sudanese nation who lived under colonization for a long time.
Below, Mr Abdel-Mahmoud Abu-Saleh, a contemporary of late national leader, Ismail Al-Azhari, tells the history of this beloved country and its struggle for independence.
Marsh towards one goal
Prior to the declaration of Sudan’s independence, the country had seen tremendous political movements and various activities that had prepared Sudanese people for breaking the barriers of colonization towards achieving their sole and noble goal: expulsion of colonizers and ending the Condominium Rule led by Egypt and Britain.
Mr Abu Saleh tells us about Sudanese defiance to death to gain their independence by force until evacuation was completed. He says that he was involved in the national struggle since his youth in 1944, which started with the formation of political parties, notably “Brothers Party”, of which he was a member.
The national movement started to stage demonstrations against colonization in 1946. The demonstrators were met with detentions and harassments by the colonizer police.
The situation continued until agreement was signed with Egypt. Shortly after, federal movement represented by “Brother’s and Unionist parties”, which later became National Unionist party.
Sudanese enormously suffered under the colonization; nevertheless, this grievous suffering had not prevented them from their collective struggle to end colonization and drive out colonizers. They maintained these efforts until independence was achieved thanks to the devoted national leaders of this nation such as Ismail Al-Azhari, Mr Abdel-Rahman Mohamed Ibrahim Dabaka, then member of the parliament for Bagara constituency, West Darfur.
Independence from the Condominium Rule was announced from the Parliament, the motion was seconded by Mr Mashawir Juma’a Sahal, a representative of Dar Hamid constituency, North Kordufan, and eventually late leader Al-Azhari proclaimed Sudan free and independent with all of its geographical territories.
Abu Salah said that after evacuation process, in accordance with Cairo agreement that provided the evacuation and sudanization and holding a referendum for Sudanese to vote whether to be independent or unite with Egypt, the two major parties of that time: the Uma and Unionist parties differed.
The former called for independence while the latter advocated unity with Egypt. At that time demonstrations, political debates and forums were led by Ismail Al-Azhari, who was a lecturer at Gordon Memorial College and Chairman of Brothers Party, were fierce.
Uncle Abu Saleh said that after the departure of last soldier from Egypt three years before set date, political movements surfaced in Egypt, indicating that the English desired to contain situation in Sudan; which prompted Sudanese to struggle for independence.
The issue was debated at a Parliament session on December 17, 1955, where a member of Uma Party rose to ask then president Al-Azhari: “Has the government the English a military base in South Sudan? The president’s response was in the negative.
“We will not negotiate with the English on any military base in any part of Sudan …we will announce Sudan’s independence from within the Parliament,” Al-Azhari said.
According to Uncle Abu Saleh, the late leader Al-Azhari was harboring an intention to proclaim this crucial event from inside the Parliament after his tour that included north, south, east and west Sudan, where he had learned that independence was the common desire of the entire people of Sudan in addition to unifying the national rank.
Veteran Abu Saleh added that unanimous desire for freedom among the political parties along with the people of Sudanese was crowned with the proclamation of independence from the Condominium Rule from the Parliament on December 9, 1956.
Prior to that, Uncle Abu Saleh continues: “Al-Azhari brought up the idea at the Graduates Club in Omdurman…it was agreed by Mr Abdel-Rahman Al-Mahid and Mr Ali Al-Merghani.”
International and Regional Reactions to Sudan’s Independence
“This crucial moment of Sudan’s history was declared from the Parliament, whose then speaker was Babikir Awadallah, a prominent judge,” explains Uncle Abu Saleh, adding that getting rid of the Condominium Rule was welcomed by many countries. After freedom and independence, Sudan held its maiden elections in 1953, in which the Uma, the Unionist and Progressive parties participated, he adds.
“The Communist Party was not existent at that time but its members were among the progressive,” Abu Saleh noted.
Leader Al-Azhari, who competed in the constituency of Omdurman North, won 66 percent of the votes against the Uma party’s candidate Abdallah Al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, despite the constituency was considered the bastion of Uma party’s supporters “Al-Anssar”.
Second Elections of 1956
After the independence, Sudan formed a government led by Ismail Al-Azhari, which held second elections in 1956, Uncle Abu Saleh said.
He adds: “unfortunately misunderstanding occurred among the members of the Unionist Party which resulted in the division of the party into Khatmiya and Unionists and that voters were divided between the National Unionist, People’s party and the Uma.”
The Unionist party was led by Al-Azhari; the People’s party was led by Ali Abdel-Rahman, while the Uma party was led by Sideeq. This government lasted for lasted for two years (1958) opposed by Ali Abdel Rahamn and Abdallah Khalil who forged alliance against it.
Abdallah Khalil handed power to Aboud in a coup on November 17, 1958, said Abu Saleh, pointing out that this coup was motivated by fear of the opposition that grew stronger than the government. The move came to avoid overthrowing it at the Parliament.
The new government lasted for six years until the October of 1964, when Al-Khatmiya and the Unionist united following agreement between Al-Azhari and Mr Ali Al-Merghani to form then Democratic Unionist Party.
“Now the National Unionist and People’s parties have been dissolved and replaced by the Democratic Unionist Party,” Al-Azhari said in a speech at the Graduates’ Club.
Bandung Conference, where Sudanese Flag was Missing
Abu Saleh goes on to state that at Bandung Conference, Indonesia, a meeting of Asian and African states, most of which were newly independent, which took place on April 18–24, 1955, leader Ismail Al-Azhari, head of Sudanese delegation to the conference, accompanied by Mubarak Zarrouq, minister of interior and Yahya Al-Fadil, were shocked to hear that then Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasir wanted to speak in the name of Sudan and Egypt with no Sudanese flag in the hall.
Upon their notice, Yahya Al-Fadil and Mubarak Zarroug were quick to put up a white flag on the desk they were sitting at, a move which angered Gamal Abdel-Nasir, who wanted to speak in the name of Sudan. Al-Azhari rose to speak in the name of Sudan. While addressing the conference, he demanded the conferees support Sudan’s independence.
Al-Azhari’s Personal Relations and Humane Positions
Speaking about Al-Azhari’s private life, Uncle Abu Saleh told us that leader Ismail Al-Azhari maintained casual relations with all members of Sudanese community, sharing their concerns, happiness and sorrows.
“I am a witness to this humanitarian situation where a woman came to Mr Al-Azhari, saying that his son was missing and that he could have been in detention in Egypt. Upon hearing her story, Mr Al-Azhari was quick to call the Egyptian leadership, led by Gamal Abdel-Nasir to inquire about the mission boy,” Uncle Abu Saleh said, adding “within 48 hours, he received a signal telling him that the missing boy was on his way to Khartoum…a week later the return along with her son to express her gratitude to Mr Ismail Al-Azhari, the leader of the country.”
Sudan Vision News Daily
Constitution .. Peoples' Vehicle for Stability
December 19, 1955 is date on which the Sudanese independence journey began with declaring independence onside the parliament.
This parliament; the one within whose walls the independence was declared; was the first Sudanese legislative body to supervise and monitor the development of Sudanese affairs before the official declaration of independence on January 1, 1956.
The pre-independence era was marked by extensive political activity by different political parties.
The most prominent of these were National Umma Party and Democratic Unionist Party which were and still are historical political parties formed in response to the drive for liberty dominating the political scene in those days.
In addition to the two large parties there was also the graduates' movement which backed the independence line.
Constitution and Governments
Since 1956 the constitution remained the biggest incomplete step in the road for stability in the country. Every government would write a constitution and the one following it would annul it and write a new one, and so forth.
Sudanese politics has since been controlled by temporary constitutional decrees for which military governments were renowned.
After two years of democratic rule, a military coup brought a military government to power headed by Ibrahim Abood in 1958 and lasted 6 years. An interim government was put in place followed by a second democratic government from 1965 to 1969.
Another coup brought another military government under whose rule the country had undergone a new constitutional phase for 16 years.
On April 6, 1985 the people revolted against the rule of Nimeiri and a interim government, again, had been put in place for a year.
In 1986 a democratic government was elected until it was ended by a military coup in 1989 under which the country underwent what was known as "revolutionary legitimacy", followed by constitutional decree phase.
This phase was followed by what was known as "constitutional legitimacy" which produced the constitution of 1998, famously known as the Political succession constitution.
Following 20 years of civil war, the comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the government of Sudan and SPLM headed by John Garang.
In the period from 2005 to 2011; the constitution ruling the country was an interim one whose most prominent feature was the South Sudan referendum. This referendum led to the formation of new country in Africa on July 9, 2011, South Sudan due to a 98% result in favor of secession.
The second republic was the term the Sudanese government has dubbed the post-secession era with. This era is characterized by the quest for a constitution that realizes political stability in the country and guarantees peaceful circulation of power.
Political parties and forces have divided themselves into two camps in this regard: one calling for writing the constitution and another calling for establishing an interim government that paves the way for a permanent constitution.
Secretary General of the Political Sector of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said constitution is a vital issue and added that everyone partake in writing it to set lay immovable pillars for a permanent constitution.
Head of National Umma Party Alsadig Almahdi on the other hand calls for covering a collective conference to discuss the constitution and sees that writing the constitution is a process that requires the participation of all civil society organizations and educational institutions to write a constitution that meets the aspirations of the citizens.
Monitors think that the constitution committee is working at a slow pace instead of which it must launch a broad campaign to encompass everyone and all society categories in the constitution-writing process of the next constitution.
The Sudanese state is in need of a constitution to end the 57 year-long constitution crisis given how importantly the state regards the constitution and the respect it holds for it.