KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Colonel Aljak Bakheet Deng Areng is an army officer to remember. He was the officer who teamed up with Sudan’s first elected Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari and opposition leader Mohammad Ahmad Mahjoub to raise the country’s national flag, on the first of January 1956, and lower the flags of Sudan’s colonial powers Britain and Egypt; signaling the independence of Sudan.
Aljak was honored with the job because he was the most ranking major in the Sudan Defense Force at the time and because he belonged to the Corps of Engineers, the Sudan Defense Force’s major technical and logistic unit, to which several army units like the signals corps, the military works and musical corps were affiliated. In addition Major Aljak was known for his discipline and his dedication, matters that earned him the nickname Abuljaish (the Army Man).
Colonel Aljak was born in the Town of Shendi to a staff sergeant in the Turko-Egyptian Army. On the independence day he was the longest serving officer in the Sudan Defense Force, and because of the role of this Force in the first and second World wars, and in the fight against the first Southern Sudanese rebellion, a member of it was honored to co-hoist the independence flag. In addition, Aljak was selected for the job due to his strong character and his long experience as a trainer in the Sudanese Military College.
On the day of independence and at 3 p.m. Aljak also lead the march from the army camp (the barracks) down to the Khartoum Railway Station) the sword of honor in his hand) to bid farewell to the first batch of the departing British soldiers.
Aljak retired from the Army as lieutenant colonel. He had lived at the Abbasiyya neighborhood of Omdurman until he died in 1994, aged 88, thus ending a long life of achievement and devotion.
He had lent the country and his family lots of values and principles that would continue to live as does his name in the records of the history of Sudan.
During the rule of former President, Marshall Ja’afar Nimeiry, Aljak was elevated to the rank of Retired Army Colonel.
His son, retired Army Brigadier Ali Aljak, a former commander of the Military Police, says they as a family were overjoyed and most gratified for the selection of their father for the job of raising the flag of independence.
Brig. Ali said after his father’s uniform and car were prepared on that day, "though I was just nine years old, I accompanied my father to the Republican Palace and when we arrived there, my father ascended the platform to the company of Premier Azhari and Opposition Leader Mahjoub. The three men held the rope on which the flag was tied and freed it from the post. Azhari and Mahjoub retreated a few steps and left Aljak all by himself as the flag went higher and higher, to the sound of the National Anthem. Then Aljak retreated two steps back and saluted the flag as the first Sudanese to do so.
Colonel Aljak was a sociable person who contributed quite a lot to social work in Omdurman neighborhoods. He was a member of the Khatmiyya sufi order in which he ascended to the rank of Khalifa (deputy). His fellow Khatmiyya adherents used to call him by the name “Mohammadain”.
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