980 African Law: Sudanese Revolution - §001, Fall 2008

Categories: International and Comparative Law

Instructor(s) Thompson, Cliff

British rule
ended in


January 1, 1956, but
independence has not been a triumph. In The Penguin History of the Twentieth
, 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.

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

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


as a Law Lecturer at the

University of
, and Direector of the


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.”

In 2004, a
history professor at U Missouri, who knew of my


interest, wrote to ask if I had anything on Judge Abdel Mageed Imam, about whom
the Sudanese Ambassador to


had recently said, “We were fortunate to be alive in the age of Abdel Mageed
Imam.” I did, and an excerpt was translated into Arabic and published in

The prof is now proceeding with a translation of the book.

Procedure for
the Course (Two hours; third hour can be arranged)

I have done nothing about
publishing in the

and that is why those enrolled in this course could potentially be a big help
to me. Each week I will hand out a chapter, which the student will return to me
with comments the next week. In class we will analyze what is happening, and
what might occur next. The final exam will be open book.

The grade for three hours will be the same as the two hour
exam, but with an additional hour to reflect a research/writing project agreed
with me.



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