By Deng Awur Wenyin
On Saturday January 20th 2018, the Bor community in its main sections of Bor, Twich (pronounced Twi), Nyarweng, and Hol, organized a colourful celebration in Freedom Hall, Juba, in honour of Moulana/ Abel Alier. As one of the hymns goes, it was a happy day.
When Professor Robert Deng delivered to me the invitation card, it instantly occurred to my mind that I should be among the speakers to say something, for the following reasons: Firstly, I have special love, liking, and admiration for this great man. Secondly, though not distinguished like him, I am a lawyer from none other than the University of Khartoum as he is. Thirdly, I founded the law school at the University of Juba. Fourthly, one of the subjects of my interest is Introduction to Law of South Sudan, in which I cannot avoid talking about him, Joseph Ukel Garang, and the rest of their colleagues.
But, because there is a lot to be said about Abel Alier, most of those who spoke talked longer and so there was not enough time for me and the President of the Bar Association, James ed Teib (whom I had requested the organizers to be given a chance) to speak.
Another factor which might have disqualified me and the Bar Association boss, was that the organizers were more interested in Abel’s contemporaries and those who closely worked with him in government. Among the contemporaries who were present and spoke, were Dr Mansour Khalid, Dr Francis Deng, and Sayed/ Bona Malwal (In the Sudan politics the title Sayed is preferred to Mr). Among those who worked closely with him present and spoke were Agnes Lasuba and Aggrey Tisa Sabuni. Sayed/ Lubari Ramba sent a note from Arua, Uganda, where he is taking treatment.
If I spoke, I was going to start by cracking a joke. I had intentionally wore a large and thick necktie. This type of large and thick neckties are nowadays said to be obsolete. I was going to say that in the 1970’s this type of necktie was called Mansour Khalid. Dr Mansour Khalid was well-known for smartness; he was always in suit. His type of tie was nicknamed as Mansour Khalid.
When the occasion finished and people were dispersing, he was being walked out. He was frail and in safari or Kaunda dress! I approached him and shook his hand and asked him, while holding my tie out, what is this? He said something in a frail manner, which I thought he said it was a tie. I said to him that the type of this tie used to be called Mansour Khalid. But there was too much crowd and noise as well; thus my talk to him did not have the effect I desired.
It is my view that the honouring of Sayed/ Abel Alier by the Bor community was, in another way, honouring of South Sudan lawyers in particular, and the rule of law in general. This is because, according to me, if you talk about Abel Alier, you are talking about the lawyers and the whole law in this country. I think if the President of the Bar Association got the chance to speak, I think he was going to announce that the Bar Association was going to organize a similar celebration.
Dr Mansour Khalid in his book: Numeiry and the Revolution of Dis-May, wrote something about Abel Alier (p.44) which has become a quotable statement by many scholars. In his book titled South Sudan: The Notable Firsts, Dr Kuyok A. Kuyok quoted part of that statement in the section about Abel Alier. Here I enlarge it: ”Abel (is) the best president Sudan never had, and probably will never have…. He is a humble, judicious and accommodating man.” Take note of the words humble, judicious and accommodating. It occurs to my mind as if Mansour Khalid was writing this with Chinua Achebe in mind; When Chinua Achebe wrote his novel: Things Fall Apart.
Abel respected, protected, and judiciously spent and applied government money and property. One of the speakers said that during Abel’s time as president of the High Executive Council of the then Southern Region, there was not government money in or around his office.
Sabana Jambo the then Director – General of Finance in the Ministry of Finance, Kept and controlled all the monies of the Government of Southern Sudan. When a need arose, Abel’s office applied to the Ministry of Finance, just like any other government unit did. The money would be approved there and brought for that particular purpose. Now, Chinua Achebe! Things have fallen apart!
Humble, not like nowadays when authority acquired through frequent rebellion or blackmail, overnight becomes a licence for arrogance and corruption. Judicious, Abel is a calm thoughtful man. In government business his decision was wise, fair and problem-solving. Of course he did not, and does not, drink alcohol. Being in his clear mind throughout, any document he signed was the one he went through thoroughly.
As I was one of his young political supporters during elections in the 1970s and early 80s (campaigning for his candidates in my home constituencies), I was among those who used to have frequent visits to his home in Juba (now the presidential palace) and in Khartoum (when he was vice-president of the Sudan). Truth must be said before God, I never saw him playing cards. He was, and still is, either talking to a group of people on serious public or cultural issues, reading or writing.
Questions: in these days, how many authorities who read or write? How many who keep away from alcohol, cards, and women? How many who have the time to consult local experts on political, economical or constitutional issues? Tell me!
Accommodating, I think Sayed/Abel was, and is, aware of the adage that everybody knows something and he/she has the right to be listened to. Most speakers confirmed that he is a good listener and analyser as well. Accommodating other people’s opinions is tolerance, which can give birth to compromise.
In fact president Ja’afer Numeiry (1969 – 1985) preceded Dr Mansour Khalid in discovering and recognizing Abel as a unique character. After the Addis Ababa Agreement (of which Abel had led the Sudan Government delegation in the negotiations) and the subsequent administering of southern Sudan by him, Numeiry conferred on Abel the medal (wisam) of Ibn es Sudan al-Baar, meaning, faithful son of the Sudan who is dutiful and loyal. Even Numeiry’s opponents agreed with this conferment.
In South Sudan university education started in the 1950s. This became possible when the Anglo – Egyptian, or Condominium Government, abandoned the infamous southern policy, under which the south was isolated from northern Sudan and the outside world as well! There was not any economic or educational development. That change of policy led to the opening of government schools. Rumbek Secondary and later, Juba Commercial Secondary, were opened. These two secondary schools were able to compete for the University of Khartoum.
Concerning law, which Abel read, I categorize law graduates into generations: First generation (1950s), they were only two: Joseph Ukel Garang and Abel Alier. Second generation (1960s), they were more than ten but below twenty; among those, Dr Francis Deng, Prof. Akolda Man Tier, John Onge, John Woul Makec and Maker Kot Arour.
Third generation (1970s), they could have been between thirty and forty, among them , Dr Peter Nyot Kok, Charles Manyang D’Awol, Kuol Alor, Salwa Gibril Berberi (first female law graduate from South Sudan), Michael Makuen Lueth, and Bullen Panchol Awal, and Ruben Madol Arol. Fourth generation (1980s), the number increased among them, Deng Awur Wenyin (this writer), Nhial Deng Nhial, Jeremiah Swaka, and Majok Mading Majok. Fifth generation (1990s – the present), many, many, many of them.
In 1998 the University of Juba assigned me as Dean to found the College of Law. After the comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, the University relocated to Juba from Khartoum. The College of Law has a unique building at the Customs Roundabout. The building has eight main lecture halls. At the level of the College we thought that, instead of just numbering the halls, it is better to honour our pioneer lawyers and name the halls after the most senior of them. The College has sent a memo to the Vice – Chancellor to bless the naming. We hope he will have no objection.
In other universities elsewhere, for example the University of Khartoum, the College would have not needed permission because there, a faculty decision is automatically implemented. For instance, after the secession of southern Sudan from the Sudan, southern Sudanese lecturers in the Sudan were sent to South Sudan.
The Faculty of Law, University of Khartoum, where Prof. Akolda Man Tier taught, honoured him by naming a lecture hall after him and no any University authority that raised concern. We suggest to honour the following pioneer lawyers by naming the eight lecture halls after their names:
1. Joseph Garang (1957)
2. Abel Alier (1959)
3. Wilson Aryamba (1962)
4. Gordon Abyei (1962)
5. Donato Mabior (1962)
6. Natale Oluak (1962)
7. Ambrose Riny Thiik (1966)
8. Martin Majier Gai (1967)
In the whole South Sudan Abel Alier is the second person to graduate from law, after Joseph Garang. He was the first southerner to be a judge, and the second to be a judge was Wilson Aryamba. In 1965 when he resigned from the judiciary to join politics, he joined the Bar, becoming the second person to be advocate, after Joseph Garang, who was the first southerner to be an advocate.
After Addis Ababa Agreement, Abel was the first president of the High Executive Council of Southern Region. He was the first southerner to be vice-president of the whole Sudan. May God the Almighty grant him more years! Amen!
*The writer is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Juba.