My Reflections on the Tale of the three Darfur Universities
By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
The idea of a University for the Darfur region began since the eighties of the last century. It was among the Longings of the people of the region to achieve that dream, along with other ambitions. However, like a mythical maze it took an intertwined course for a substantial period of time, effort and setbacks. In fact, to achieve the establishment of a University for Darfur was like an obstructed Labour that needs more than a caesarean section – so to speak.
The idea crystallized in a serious manner in November 1975, when the President of the Republic, former Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri passed the Presidential Decree No. – 8 – for the establishment of the University of Darfur, but the dream did not materialize on the ground until 1990 when the President of the Republic Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir passed the Presidential Decree No. – 142 – for the establishment of a University in Darfur under the name of “University of Al-Fateh of September in Darfur”, and was officially opened in El Fasher, the capital of the Greater Darfur Region. In February 1991, the government granted the University the prefabricated buildings belonged to the Italian company (Ricky) situated in the west of El Fasher airport and South of the former El Fasher secondary School. At the time, the Italian Company Ricky was working to create some internal roads to the city of El Fasher.
Going deep in history, the idea of the establishment of a University for Darfur began with the appointment of the academic, Professor El-Amin Abdullah El-Karib, a Veterinarian Surgeon as manager responsible for overseeing the feasibility study and implementation of the project and providing him with the necessary tools of the potential to help achieving the goal. That was in the period 1990 -1991. Dr. Amin El-Karib was the former Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Khartoum previously. He, apparently, chose to begin the University of Darfur by a Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Nyala as an initial seed for the establishment of the university.
Professor El-Amin Abdullah El-Karib born in the City of Rufaah on26/2/1916
Professor El-Amin Abdullah El-Karib was the 1968-1969 Vice chancellor of the University of Khartoum. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicin1971. Professor El-Amin Abdullah El-Karib the spiritual father of veterinarians.
It is needless to mention that the University of Nyala in Darfur was a result of huge efforts of the people of Darfur who have made all their energies in the territory for some sustainable development to happen especially in the area of human development through education. They thought rightly that knowledge through higher education as the power by which to gain wealth, power, sustainable development, peace and stability and decent life. However, thanks to some of the people who pioneered and contributed to that dream to come true since the 1980s. Now one does not endorse that work to a single individual. It was a collective effort at different stages. The project began by a small group that planned contacting and seeking the support from the State of Libya that was called the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya led by late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The Darfuris renamed the “University of Darfur” to Al-Fateh of September University in in Darfur in honour of the Libyan University of al-Fateh (1st) of September in the hope that it contributes in encouraging the Libyan authorities to provide material support to the University of Darfur project.. However, and to the dismay and disappointment of the delegation made up of the then Member of the National Salvation Revolution (NSR) Council, the Brigadier El-Tigani Adam El-Tahir and Professor Ibrahim El-Amin Hager initiators of the project, the Libyans provided only with tremendous amounts of the Green Book authored by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyans, apparently thought that intellectual contribution would gain them political polarisation of the future students of the nascent University ideologically. Furthermore, the Management of Fateh of September University in the City of Sirte in Libya greeted the delegation of the University of Darfur with some apathy and gave the excuse that they are suffering from a lack of resources in their university as well. So they offered that earth-shattering amounts of the ‘Green Book’ authored by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as a gift to the nascent University of Darfur. The delegation returned to El-Fasher barehanded but kept the name, despite that. Professor Ibrahim El-Amin Hager’s tenure of office as a Vice Chancellor for Al-Fateh of September University in Darfur extended during the period 1991 – 1993.
Tale of three Darfur Universities
In 1993, the government of National Salvation Revolution (NSR/AKA Ingaz) divided the Darfur region into three independent states. In each state, the college in it became a nucleus for a University. The remaining colleges from the Old University – Al-Fateh of September in Darfur- became the University of El-Fasher in the City of El Fasher in the North Darfur state. As well, in each of the other two states of South Darfur and West Darfur established the University of Nyala and the University of Zalingei, respectively.
The three universities in question al-Fasher, Nyala and Zalingei were the offshoots of the former University of al-Fatih of September in Darfur, which was allegedly a promised gift from Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the people of Darfur. Initially it was thought that the University would be a branch of a university in Libya, namely, University of Sirte. Consequently, it would be built at the expense of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. When a delegation led by Professor Ibrahim El-Amin Hagar visited the Sirte University, they were received a very cool welcome and the authorities in the Libyan university in Sirte said that they had been facing difficulties running a fiscal deficit. Understandably, Professor Hagar and his delegation returned to El Fasher very disappointed.
The speculated reasons for which the Libyan authorities did not provide the funds for building the university of Darfur facilities in spite of the fact that the Darfur University was renamed after the Libyan Revolution were unclear! People believed that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, a proponent of Arab unity, was expecting to achieve his old political aspiration of Unity between his country and Sudan, which had not been reconciled by the successive military governments of Sudan; beginning from the May 25th regime of Jaafer Nimeiri to the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime led by Omer Hassan al-Basher and its godfather Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi. Afterwards, the government of Sudan passed a decree for the establishment of the University as an independent entity, which had nothing to do with Libya on 12th June 1990. With that fraudulent resolution, the proclamation of the University was made without infrastructure or the necessary adequate funding. In a bid of a futile act, the government of Sudan instead of building a proper University campus, it housed the new university in the makeshift prefabricated old camp buildings deserted by the Italian company, Ricci, situated in the west of El-Fasher Airport. The Italian Company was allegedly escaped precipitately when it learned that an Islamic fundamentalist hard-liner regime had taken power in Sudan through a military coup d’état. The administration started the University with the faculties of Education and Veterinary Science, though an independent Sudanese University with legal accountability separate from Libya.
The Story of the Difficult Task for the establishment of the University of Nyala in conditions of non-existence of financial and infrastructure:
The then al-Fatih of September University in Darfur (FSUD) was split to give rise to the three universities of El Fasher, Nyala and Zalingei. Al- Fasher University annexed and occupied the prestigious boys’ secondary school of El-Fasher that contributed in the dissemination of knowledge for generations over the past decades. On the other hand, the Nyala University occupied the buildings of the former College of Education for girls whereas the Faculty of Agriculture of the New University of Zalingei occupied buildings of the former Zalingei secondary school for boys with the transfer of the secondary school to the intermediate (middle) school buildings! This was part of the sterile policy of the Government of the National Islamic Front (NIF) in Darfur to hide the facts and boast that they provided services and developed in the region. Thus, the (NIF) regime robbed the region’s most cherished schools at the expense of the failed programmes and the deceptive policies. The elements of this regime do not hesitate to take deception and lies as ways to survive and stay in power and authority without any consideration to the religious slogans they chant all the time to delude the public in clear hypocrisy and fraud! The so-called higher education revolution has led to tragedy and irreparable damage to university and higher education in Sudan.
One of them asked me as to why, then, I participated in the implementation of that policy which now I regularly criticize if I had known to be harmful from the very beginning? My answer was that, at the time, one was thinking that adequate financial support and work force would accompany for the implementation of such an enormous task. Moreover, I also strongly felt that as the university was an institution in the region of Darfur, it was onus upon me contribute into its development. This is in addition to the lack of support and conspiracy by the Islamists to create chaos and instability to be able to pass their hidden agendas to wreak and foil the task my team and I were trying hard to implement with dedication, sincerity and seriousness. Nevertheless, when the falsehood of those slogans became clear, I asked the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Professor Ibrahim Ahmed Omer to relieve me from my position as Vice Chancellor of the University of Nyala. He reluctantly released me and I left Sudan to join the Revolution of the Marginalized people against the ruthless National Congress Party (NCP), formerly the National Islamic Front (NIF), regime that has committed war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity against the defenseless people of Darfur. That experience was our fate, we the people of Sudan in Darfur, with the successive hegemonic ruling elites in Khartoum. No difference between those regimes despite their deceptive and loose colourful names they give to their successive regimes, be it military, civilian or Islamo-Arabism.
Political analysts and observers thought that the attitude of the military ruler Sikha and his hireling deputy reflected their ignorance of good manners, arrogance, racism in clear violation of the rules of decency and morality which the people of Sudan in Darfur adhere to.
The management of the Nyala University did not sit idle waiting for the budget allocated but known in advance that it would not come. The budget for the University of Nyala was just on paper and would not be possible to get it from the Central bank in Khartoum. That was despite the appointment of a representative of the University of Nyala for that purpose. He frequently called panting behind it the Bank to get our share. Accordingly, the university administration decided to do Tour of villages, cities and hamlets in South Darfur state, to preach the citizens of the importance and benefits of the university to the people of the state. Furthermore, the University team asked the citizens for contribution by donating generously what they afford to support the projects of the university, whether in the form of money or cattle or anything else. The trip lasted for two weeks, but the outcome was modest because most of those pledged promises did not fulfil their words. The role of the management in the South Darfur State represented by the Governor (Wali) was very negative and with obvious abandonment and did not pay any attention to the university. The first Wali for the State, Dr. Babiker Kaballow, until his tenure of office ended had never visited the University nor attended the meetings of the University Council he was a member in it. Thus, was the unprecedented degree of passive hostility that received by the Nyala University from the influential civil servants and the State Governors.
El-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohammed Kheir & the VC Prof Hagar
This was the incident when the Military Governor of the Darfur Region, Colonel El-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohammad Kheir (AKA Sikha) , in a surprise visit, stormed entered the meeting of the Council of the University of al-Fatih of September in Darfur to treat the Vice Chancellor (Rector), Professor Ibrahim El-Amin Hagar with disrespect and asking him to leave the region. Professor Ibrahim decided after the meeting to quit his position in El-Fasher and go to Khartoum to submit his resignation to the Minister of the Higher Education Dr. Ibrahim Ahmed Omer who instead gave him more challenging task of nationalization of the Khartoum branch of Cairo University, renamed the El-Nilein University later on.
Professor Ibrahim El-Amin Hagar’s decision did not come out of the blue but was the result of accumulation of bitterness feelings. Lack of appreciation, disrespect and contempt towards us the Darfuris from the rulers who came from Khartoum whether they were civilian or military during our work at the University of al-Fateh of September in Darfur was a phenomenon. We were the victims of racism, tyranny and condescension.
The Deputy Governor Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir adds insult to Injury
An example of the forgoing also happened during the Holy Month of Ramadan when the University of Al-Fateh invited the Deputy Governor of the Darfur Region, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, to attend what was called (the collective Ramadan Breakfast, Arabic ‘Iftar Jamaeiy’). That deputy Governor gave a short talk in which he said with air of arrogance but contemptuous to the audience that the members of University administration were living in bliss, riding luxury cars and living in luxury homes which were gifts from the National Salvation Revolution (NSR). The unrepentant and undeterred Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir continued to say that the upstarts grew up in straw huts and in harsh conditions of life. He finally concluded his provocative talk by reciting verse 83 from Sura 28 al-Qasas of the Holy Quran the meaning of words of which indicates (The Home of the Hereafter We shall give to those Who intend not high-handedness Or mischief on earth And the End is (best) for the righteous). Note that the arrogant Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir is originally from the region of western Sudan and belongs to the marginalized nomadic Majaneen tribe in the north Kordofan desert. This is the Pot calling the kettle black! The criticisms he was aiming at the people of Darfur could equally well apply to him!
Political analysts and observers thought that the attitude of the military ruler Sikha and his hireling deputy reflected their ignorance of good manners, arrogance, racism in clear violation of the rules of decency and morality that the people of Sudan in Darfur continue to adhere to.
Sharing out the Booty (Spoils) between Brawling Partners an impossible Task!
The time had come to share and divide the possessions, if any remained, of the former al-Fatih of September University in Darfur equally between the three new universities, according to the directives of the Minister of Higher Education. The Universities of Nyala and Zalingei, which the Minister announced their establishment to start, did not have any preexisting infrastructure or property. Nevertheless, Professor Fathi Muhammad Khalifa, former Vice Chancellor of al-Fatih of September University in Darfur, adamantly refused to give away anything out of the property of the former university. He considered it as a private belonging of his new university of el-Fasher and asked us to go to the Ministry of Higher Education to get funding for the necessary financial support to our two universities in Nyala and Zalingei. This hostile attitude of Dr. Fathi infuriated me dearly and irritated my colleague, Dr. Mohammed Abbaker. I said to him that the property belonged to the government and not his private assets. Furthermore, I pointed out to him that all the three of us were Vice Chancellors of universities, equal in rank and not working under his command. At that particular point in time, the Principal or Arabic al-Wakeel, Mr. Hussein Abbaker Salih, chief administrator of the former al-Fatih University, tried to mediate with the view to ease the tension, quell the anger, and calm us down; but in vain in the face of the arrogant attitude of Dr. Fathi. When Fathi realised that we were not giving in at all costs, he agreed to give away some of the property to the two universities, while keeping the bulk of everything. The apportionment was unfair but we accepted at face value to buy time and avoid further confrontation, the extent of would not be known. We reluctantly accepted the proposal put forward by Mr. Hussein, in spite of the injustice and the clearly unequal Apportionment. Following that, every one of us left El Fasher to where his university was to continue on the path of rugged construction of the university that had been announced without prior plan!
The Preamble of the Nyala University reads as follows: The University of Nyala is a public institution established on March 6th 1994 to achieve the following objectives:
- Emphasize and consolidate Nation’s identity through curricula it approves and applies,
- Conduct community needs based applied research,
- Innovate and apply technology to promote the Sudanese community in collaboration with other universities and higher education institutions
- Promote the environment in Sudan and South Darfur State in Particular and train competent qualified human resources to promote it.
- Interact with the rural population to understand the problems and recognize the traditional knowledge, work together in order to develop this knowledge in compliance with their needs and values.
- Pay importance to medical, earth and natural science in the framework of Sudan development.
- Involvement in human development, thought and religious values promotion issues.
- Train students to obtain degrees
In its early years, the University of Nyala succeeded to establish two Faculties- Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Engineering Studies beside the Faculty of Veterinary Science.
On March 6, 1994 AD Faculty of Veterinary Science-based in the City of Nyala, became the nucleus for the University of Nyala. Originally, the former Al-Fateh of September University in Darfur established the Faculty of Veterinary Science in 1991 as part of it. Then the Faculty constituted the nucleus for the University of Nyala in 1994.
Faculty of Education
The University of Nyala established the Faculty of Education in 1994 to train teachers of the primary schools. In 1998, a new programme to train secondary school teachers was introduced to offer B.A & B.Sc. (General and Honors) In Islamic Studies and Social Sciences (History & Geography).
Faculty of Engineering Studies
The University established the Faculty of Engineering Studies in 1995 to offer B. Sc. and Intermediate Diplomas in Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Electric and Electronic Engineering.
The Vice Chancellors who administered the University of Nyala since its inception in Secession:
- Professor Mahmoud Abbaker Suleiman form 1994 to1998. Dr. Mahmoud Abubaker Suleiman was the founding Vice Chancellor (Rector) for the University of Nyala.
- Professor Adam Hassan Sulaiman 1998 to 2003, he was also the founding Dean Faculty of Veterinary Science.
- Professor Abbas Yusuf Tijani 2003 to 2008, he was also the founding Dean Faculty of Engineering Studies.
- Professor Abbaker Ali Idris 2008 to 2013
- Professor Mohammad Ali Haj Alouba from 2013 to date
1. FACULTY OF VERERINARY SCIENCE
Established in 1991 as part of Elfateh University in Darfur then constituted in 1994 as a nucleus for the University of Nyala .
- Clinical Studies
- Preventive Medicine
- Animal Production
2. FACUALTY OF EDUCATION
Nyala University established the Faculty of Education in 1994 to train teachers of the primary schools. In 1998 a new programme to train secondary school teachers was introduced to offer B.A & B.Sc (General and Honors) In the following Departments:
- Islamic Studies
- Social Sciences (History & Geography).
- Arabic Language
- Languages ( English & French )
- Education Science
- Education Activities
- Science (Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Biology)
3. FACULTY OF ENGINEERING SCIENCE
Established in 1995 to offer B. Sc. and Intermediate Diplomas in
- Civil Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electric and Electronic Engineering
My direct association with Al-Fateh of September University in Darfur took two phases besides the fact that I am descendent of the Greater Darfur region. The first stage was when my friend and classmate Prof. Ibrahim El-Amin Hagar director(VC) of al- Fatih of September University in Darfur, as to whether I wanted to become a founder Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Al Fateh of September in Darfur. At the time, I served as a Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khartoum, I agreed immediately. Professor Hagar nominated me to the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Professor Ibrahim Ahmed Omer who passed a Decree of my appointment as a founding Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1992.
The second phase of my association began when the University of al-Fateh of September University in Darfur split into three universities. The three included the University of El Fasher, Nyala University and the University of Zalingei in sync with the division of the Region of the Greater Darfur into three States: the North Darfur state, the South Darfur State and the West Darfur state. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research selected me to the position of the founding Vice Chancellor of the University of Nyala with the rest of the founding team led by Professor Adam Hassan Sulaiman, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, which became the nucleus of the University. Moreover, the Ministry also appointed Vice Chancellors for the other two Universities. Professor Fathi Mohamed Khalifa became the (VC) for El Fasher University and Professor Mohammed Abbaker for Zalingei University in West Darfur in 1994 in accordance with the Presidential Decree No. (67). The Faculty of Agriculture, became the nucleus for the University of Zalingei whereas the Faculties of Education, Medicine and the Faculty of Natural resources became affiliated with the University of El-Fasher. Since then a number of Vice Chancellors came in succession for managing the three universities that have expanded in all fields and increased the number of colleges and their student intake and the staff numbers.
Through reflecting on the foregoing one finds that in spite of the suffering and the difficulties faced equally by the students, the academic staff and the administrators due to the scarcity of financial resources , lack of infrastructure and the absence of moral support from the arrogant political elements coming from Khartoum to Darfur, the three universities of El Fasher, Nyala and Zalingei kept the pace of continuity with dedication and made academic progress and development in services to the communities they supposed to serve.
- Mahmoud A. Suleiman is an author, columnist and a blogger. His blog is https://thussudan.wordpress.com/