980 African Law: Sudan Seminar - §001, Fall 2011

Categories: International and Comparative Law

Instructor(s) Thompson, Cliff

British rule ended in Sudan on January 1, 1956, but independence has not been a triumph. In The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century, J.T. Roberts refers to Sudan in the post-colonial period as “that unhappy land.” There has been a lingering and devastating civil war between the north and the south. More recently, the government’s genocide in Darfur is a disaster. Repressive military rule, not democratic civilian government, has predominated nationally in the years since independence. Nevertheless, there were events in October 1964 during which the sparks of democracy flew upwards. The October Revolution was a national uprising of unarmed civilians who wanted to overthrow a military dictatorship, and succeeded. The democracy lasted until the next military coup in 1969. But the revolution became a source of pride for those who joined, and remains a beacon for many in Sudan, and for anyone who believes in the aspirations of people for self-rule. The draft book that is assigned for the course recounts the uprising and the democratic pulse that helped to give it life. It is a human story worth telling, full of unexpected and courageous acts. Many of the leaders were law students, law professors, lawyers, and judges.

At the time of the revolution, I was in my fourth year in Sudan as a Law Lecturer at the University of Khartoum, and Director of the Sudan Law Project. Descriptions of public events often include my own observations, but the book is principally based on interviews with the leading participants, civilian and military. After talking with hundreds of people, I had prolonged interviews with 68 persons, all but two of them in the period 1964-67. I was keen to learn what went on behind the scenes. Working through the written notes of my interviews and writing a narrative was a much longer process, mostly part-time, mostly like a favorite hobby, from 1971 to 2003. The narrative attempts to convey a sense of being there, so that the reader can understand, for example, the shifting and chaotic reality behind labels such as the “Professional Front,” “the Palace Massacre,” or the “National Charter.”

For texts, this seminar will use (1) my manuscript of Sudan’s October Revolution; and (2) Sharon E. Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas –Coping with Money, War, and the State (1996), an excellent analysis of the South Sudan.

For those students interested in three credits, extra work on a project reflecting developments in Darfur will be agreed upon.

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