Yahya Hassan -Sudanow
KHARTOUM – As the anniversary of Sudan’s Independence Day draws closer, the nation remembers one of the outstanding makers of this independence: Former Premier and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ahmad Majoub or “The Boss”.* The Boss! So called him his friends and acquaintances… True …He was a real boss, judging by his ability to convince and, accordingly, to lead. His composed personality and his vast knowledge put him under deserved limelight wherever he went; at the UN as well as in regional forums. Foreign officials, diplomats and journalists would hesitate to argue with him, perhaps because of his amiable character, his knowledge and his serious face!* Former elected Prime Minister of Sudan (1965-1967) and, before that Foreign Minister, Mohammad Ahmad Mahjoub, was born in the White Nile Town of Addewaim on May 17, 1908, and grew up in the custody of his uncle (his mother’s brother) Mohammad Abdelhaleem and his grandfather Abdelhaleem Masa’ad. The latter was a courageous lieutenant of Abdelrahman Alnujoomi, one of the most outstanding worriers of the Mahdist Revolution that wiped the Turkish rule out of the country. Mahjoub’s formative years in this social surroundings may have influenced his patriotic mood in the following years.
Mahjoub completed his primary education at his home town of Addewaim and then enrolled in the Omdurman Intermediate School here. Then he joined the Gordon Memorial College from which he graduated with a certificate in civil engineering in 1929, topping his classmates. He was then appointed engineer in the Department of Public Works. Though his record as an engineer was a bright one, yet the job was not fulfilling to him, he who had shown as a poet and a politician. He was so obsessed with humanitarian studies that in 1938 he joined the first batch of the Faculty of Law at the then Khartoum University College. Upon graduation he served as a judge and continued with his judicial career until 1945 when he resigned and started a lawyer’s career in Khartoum in order, in his own words, “to have more freedom as a politician,” now that he had become an active member of the Graduates Congress that led the civil struggle against the British colonial rule. That decision was indeed a good choice. It eventually propelled him to the esteemed posts of Foreign Minister and, then, Prime Minister of Sudan. Before that he was leader of the parliamentary opposition, representing the Umma (Nation) Party, a position that led him to stand shoulder-to shoulder with elected Prime Minister Ismail Alazhari when both men, faces-up, hoisted the country’s flag of independence on the First of January, 1956. An image taken of that event is viewed with public admiration as it continues to be shown on the local media on public occasions, the Independence Day anniversary in particular.*
The years 1927-1937 saw the evolution of his literary and intellectual personality. During that period most of his political ideas were defined and his rich writings in literature, sociology, politics and aesthetics came to the open. He started writing in Hadarat Alsudan (Sudan Civilization) Newspaper and, then, in the Alnahda (Renaissance) and Alfajr (Dawn) newspapers. It was in this latter publication that his writings matured. Most of his articles were later on published in books. Wrote Mahir Hassan Joda about Mahjoub’s writings: “Mahjoub, God rest his noble soul in eternal peace, was a skilful prose, poetry and story writer. He was, as well, an articulate orator, with a captivating style.” About Mahjoub’s patriotism, Joda asserts that: “Mahjoub was a man whose heart was full of love for his country. This love for his country had even transcended to wider spaces, to embrace the Arab World and Africa.”***
British Lord Caradon, the former UK Ambassador to the UN who wrote the introduction of Mahjoub’s book: Democracy On Trial, had written that: Though Mahjoub accuses the British Administration of seeking to strengthen, even to encourage, the call for the cession of Southern Sudan from the mother nation, which is a grave accusation that I am afraid is partly correct, yet a Briton feels some satisfaction to learn that Mahjoub always speaks about the Britons with heartfelt respect. Adds Mr. Caradon in the Introduction of the book: As a matter of fact Mahjoub’s judgments about people and issues are always more conciliatory than critical.*
Mahjoub’s view about life was that: “The human being’s gift of life rests in his ability to create and innovate.” Mahjoub had a strong zeal for the independence of Sudan from Britain and Egypt, away from the then widely propagated idea for unity with Egypt. That inclination should be read as part of his independent and his proud way of thinking. The office of Foreign Minister he assumed was not a casual undertaking. He, before that, was member of the delegation of the “Independence Front” that headed to the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 1946 to press for the independence of the Sudan. Later on he was in London as member of the League of Peoples of Color, together with African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, among a group of people of color from Africa, South Africa and the West Indies.*
Mahjoub’s political life saw a lot of ups and downs. He was elected member of the Legislative Assembly conceived by the British rule to contain the public struggle for independence. But he soon resigned on the grounds that this body was unfeasible. Later on as an MP he was witness to part of the inflammatory events that surrounded the country in the post-colonial era, such as the escalating problem of Southern Sudan, the split in his own political organization (the Umma Party) and the dissolution of the Sudanese Communist Party that eventually paved the way for the dictatorial rule of Ga’afar Nimeri. Majoub had staunchly opposed the dissolution of the Communist Party as hazardous and undemocratic. But Majoub’s best showing was when he twice stood in the UN quarters as Arab League representative to condemn the Israeli two invasions of Egyptian territories in 1956 and in 1967. On both occasions Mahjoub presented himself as an excellent statesman, a politician, an intellectual and an eloquent orator, thanks to his mastery of both English and Arabic. He had also exerted a remarkable effort to stop the civil war in Nigeria.*
As a man of letters he devoted much of his poetry to glorify beauty. This is quite visible in his three poetry collections: Qalb Wa Tajarub (Heart and Experiences), Masbahati Wa Danni (My Rosary and My Wine Pot) and Alfirdoas Almafqood (The Lost Paradise).*
Mahjoub was detained during Sudan’s first dictatorial rule of General Ibrahim Abbood (1958-1964) and then during the rule of former dictator Ga’afar Nimeri (1969-1985) when he was put under house arrest and prevented from even attending the funeral of his political foe and personal friend, hero of Sudan’s independence, former Prime Minister Ismail Alazhari. As an outcome of this maltreatment he chose to live in self-exile in England, until he died on Tuesday the 22nd of June, 1976.
Mahjoub had published these books:
(A) Intellectual Works:
1/ The Intellectual Movement in Sudan: Where To? (Published in Khartoum in 1941).
2/ Local Government in the Sudan (published in Cairo, 1945).
3/ Mawt Dunia (Death of a World), co-authored with his friend, Dr. Mohammed Abdel Haleem, Cairo 1945.
4/ Nahw Alghad (Towards the Future), published in Cairo, 1970.
5/ Democracy on Trial, published in both English and Arabic (1974).
The latter book “Democracy on Trial” tells about the experiment of a man who spent most of his life in politics and its labyrinthine corridors. It is mostly an account of the events Mahjoub had witnessed or taken part in. It also refers to the Mahdist Revolution and details the events that occurred during the Anglo-Egyptian Rule (The Condominium), 1900-1956, and the problems faced by Sudanese politicians under that rule and the march towards independence and after, down to the early years of the rule of General Ga’afar Nimeiri. The widely read book also accounts for Sudan’s diplomatic relations with other countries and the problems that surrounded them.***
(B) Poetry Collections:
1/Qissat Qlab (A Heart’s Story) – Beirut,1961.
2/ Qalb Wa Tajarub (Heart and Experiences), Beirut, 1964.
3/Alfirdoas Almafqood (The Lost Paradise), Beirut, 1969. 4/ Masbahati Wa Danni (My Rosary and My Wine Pot), Cairo, 1972.*
These publications were in addition to many articles he published in the newspapers and speeches he delivered in parliament, the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Arab League (AL) forums.*
Researcher Kamaluddin Mohammad has complied an M.A thesis entitled “Mohammad Ahmad Mahjoub As a Literary Writer”. The thesis was endorsed by the Alazhar University (Cairo), in 1982. Researcher Mohammad Musa Ali has written a post- graduate diploma thesis about him which was entitled “Aspects of Mahjoub’s Political Life.” The thesis was endorsed by the Afro-Asian Institute, University of Khartoum, in 1983.*
Mahjoub’s literary and intellectual legacy requires more examination and researching.
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